Empathy: The Foundation of Authentic Communication

“Until and unless people communicate authentically with others, in ways that facilitate trust and understanding, schools will not realize their mission as learning organizations.”

Fault-finding judgement v. No fault interpretation

The beginnings of my teaching career coincided with the publication of “A Nation at Risk”. Ever since, there has been a stream of commission reports that cast a critical eye upon public schools and teachers. Each of these reports analyzes “the problem”, makes judgements as to who is at fault, and suggests how “the problem” can be fixed. It is not a surprise that this methodology has trickled down to the district and school level. The “find the faults and fix ‘em” approach will never foster growth; empathy fosters growth.  When we empathize with another person’s experience we are seeking to understand how that person makes sense of their experience. Understanding requires listening and clarification, not analysis, judgement and prescription.

The Tschannen-Morans employ the language of  Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication (NVC) model to create a process of empathic reflection that leaders, coaches, and peers and use when listening to each other’s stories.

Observe – Think of yourself as a camera. You are capturing the experience, not evaluating it.

Recognize Feelings –  Sift the story in order to discover and reflect the feelings the other experienced. Discard the evaluations or judgements that might be attached to these feelings.

Discern Needs – Use probing questions to reveal the needs that are motivating actions. Separate strategies – the actions teachers are currently taking to meet their needs – from the needs themselves.

Make Requests – Ask teachers to declare what next steps they might or will take. Frame this as a question. “What next steps are you willing to take?”.  A request should be stated as invitation that allows the teacher the freedom to decline.

What strategies have you used to create empathy with others? Tweet your idea to …

Creating Empathy http://tombrandtt.edublogs.org/?p=93 How do you create empathy #beyondtools


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *