Awakening the Spirit of Creative Collaboration

Empathy Circles: resources and learnings

Why Empathy Circles? Empathy Circles are an enjoyable way to connect with others, while developing basic habits that are essential for conflict transformation. By developing the skill of helping others feel heard, we are co-creating a new culture of communication, where divergent perspectives contribute to new creative insights.

Origins of Empathy Circles: This simple yet powerful format that has been pioneered by Edwin Rutsch, building on the work of Carl Rogers. It's a key part of Edwin's larger project of promoting a Culture of Empathy.

Here is a blog post describing a bit about why Empathy Circles are so powerful...

Who are Empathy Circles for? Anyone who wants to develop a culture of deep listening, whether in their workplace or community group. Empathy is increasingly being recognized as one of the most important skills for leaders and managers in any field, to support interpersonal communication and defuse unproductive conflict.

Why Empathy Circles for Activists? This one-page document was created for a workshop hosted by the Four Freedoms Coalition.

"How to" for Empathy Circles: An updated version of Edwin Rutsch's original guide for participating in an Empathy Circle.

La Ronda de la Empatía, en español... gracias al Dr. Salvador Moreno López.

In March and April of 2017, Edwin and I facilitated an online design sprint, with empathy practitioners and researchers from around the world, to develop additional Empathy Circle materials. The updated version of "How to" for Empathy Circles" is  one product of that effort, as is this "step-by-step guide" for hosts. Other resources will be posted here as time permits.

If you experiment with any of these resources, and have some feedback to offer, we'd love to hear it!

Then, in the fall of 2017, some local colleagues and I began to offer small communication workshops in our local community, called "Communication Practices for Opening Minds And Hearts".

In these workshops, we included Empathy Circle practice as a preliminary community-building step, before hosting a whole-group conversation with Dynamic Facilitation. It turns out that this combination works beautifully! We've been greatly enjoying this work, and here's a link to a Google Doc where we share what we've been learning.

Empathy Circles for Organizations:  We've also been weaving Empathy Circles into our work with organizations. If you want to build more community in your organization ALONG WITH effective communication skills, Empathy Circles are an engaging and powerful way for people to practice empathy and deep listening.  Let us know if you'd like some support for this process!

More resources:

For several years, Lidewij Niezink collaborated with Edwin Rutsch, the creator of Empathy Circles. They then wrote a book expanding on the many dimensions of empathy. For those interested in a more elaborate approach than the "bare-bones" version described above, this beautifully-illustrated book on Empathy Circles is freely available online.

Here is the reference: 

Niezink, L.W. & Rutsch, E. (2016). Empathy Circles: a Blended Empathy Practice. France: Lidewij Niezink.

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