Sunday, May 3, 2015 ~ Silent Empathy
This Sunday’s topic will be on silent empathy:
“The Chinese philosopher Chuang-Tzu stated that true empathy requires listening with the whole being: ‘The hearing that is only in the ears is one thing. The hearing of the understanding is another. But the hearing of the spirit is not limited to any one faculty, to the ear, or to the mind. Hence it demands the emptiness of all the faculties. And when the faculties are empty, then the whole being listens. There is then a direct grasp of what is right there before you that can never be heard with the ear or understood with the mind.’” ~ Marshall B. Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life
Marshall Rosenberg once made a point of offering someone silent empathy, for the better part of an hour — the empathizee eventually dissolved into tears at the experience of being listened to so deeply and spaciously — to demonstrate to the audience of fellow attendees/NVC-practitioners that empathy is a quality of presence (rather than an ‘OFNR’ formula). Miki Kashtan once wrote a novel (that she had no intention of publishing), from the vantage point of a murderer, simply to challenge her own deeply rooted nonviolent convictions by attempting to enter into an alternative mindset (and silent empathic space); she also intentionally meandered the grounds, with several fellow Israelis, of a notorious concentration camp in Poland, striving towards some form of empathic apprehension of the underlying humanity that may have been in play with the Nazi guards who had once worked there. She has recommended the wisdom of one relatively green (brand new) practitioner of nonviolent communication who opted to dwell in silent empathy as a practice for the duration of his first year (rather than get stuck in the quicksand of awkward and self-conscious attempts to language empathy, at least initially). NVC mediator Ike Lasater has spoken of listening to radio pundits, with contrasting political views to his own, as a practice in developing his capacity for [silent] empathy. Lastly, Francois Beausoleil has spoken of his initial NVC practice of taking daily walks while running through a Dissolving Enemy Images practice, often with reference to those nearest and dearest to himself, towards achieving what he calls ‘blame-free states’. These are several examples of NVC certified trainers and their use of silent empathy as a metabolizing tool towards greater equanimity and, eventually, effectiveness.
Marshall Rosenberg: “As with the other modes of NVC, there is a learnable process to follow in giving empathy, based on the classic four step model. And then there is the magic of throwing the rule book away. Silent empathy is the goal; or, rather, when you have each said what you need to say in order to know where the other person is really at, you can be silently present, and that is the moment of true empathy.
Some rare people have the knack or skill or offering total presence right from the first moment of an encounter. For the rest of us, there can be a journey towards connection and silence which still involves quite a few words, and that is OK too. That’s who these guidelines are intended for…” (continues)
See also: Three Layers of Empathy