~2 minute read

Over the past months I’ve been fortunate to have many discussions about empathy with participants as I facilitate Dr. Brené Brown’s Dare To LeadTM program.

There are a few key points that I would like to share with you as these have had a significant effect on participants and myself alike.

In Dare To LeadTM we explore the question, “When you share something that makes you feel vulnerable, that makes you uncomfortable, how would you like the person that you are sharing this information with to respond?” Participants are surprised by the diversity of the responses that are offered; for example, some would like eye contact to be maintained whereas others prefer not to make eye contact; some would like a response from the person while others would just like them to listen.

Artwork: Charlie Mackesy

The significant learning is “Wow, I always respond with how I would like others to respond to me, but that’s not necessarily how others would like me to respond. Empathy looks different for all of us.” This leads to deep curiosity to understand what empathy looks and sounds like for fellow team members, and to further connection as all team members share what is ok and what is not ok. All team members felt seen and heard.  

The following question tends to be raised by participants; “How should I respond if I haven’t had the opportunity to understand another person’s preferred empathic response before they share information with me that makes them feel vulnerable?” The answer? Ask. When someone shares their story with you, gently ask a question such as: “How can I support you right now?”; “What do you need from me now?”

I am reminded … empathy is a skill, an emotion, an experience that draws us together as a common humanity.

Additionally, participants come to the conclusion that, before they share their own story with another, they will let them know what their expectations are of that person. For example: “I’m about to share some information with you …

  • … I’d just like you to listen please;” or
  • … I’m really keen on your perspective;” or
  • … it would be great if we could brainstorm some solutions together please.”

As we explore empathy, I am always grateful for the willingness of participants to be vulnerable and to share their own experiences, thoughts, hopes and learning.  What I am reminded of every time is that empathy is a skill, an emotion, an experience that draws us together as a common humanity.

We all have courage within,


aka @CourageChick

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