4. Challenges Catalog

Empathy Circle Facilitator Challenges Catalog

Welcome. Here is a list of typical challenges you may encounter as an Empathy Circle Facilitator. The list is sorted by the roles of the Empathy Circle such as, Active Listener, Speaker, Silent Listener, Facilitator, Other, Etc.

This catalog is a work in progress. You can click on the number before each Challenge to find more information about it. There is a shared google doc for each Challenge where you can add your own experience. We will also be developing a process where you will be able add and develop more challenges that are not yet included in this catalog.


Challenges Catalog
Click on the numbers to see more

Active Listener

001 - Active Listener leaving out a key portion of what the speaker said.
            (Sample Model - team works together on developing this.)

504: Active Listener is going off track and/or misunderstanding the speaker?
010 - Active Listener reflecting back a lot more than the speaker actually said.
          (Graham Berends) 

051 - Active Listener occasionally gives suggestions or advice to the speaker.
(Larry Lawhorn)
030 - Active Listener feels anxious because they want to do the reflection and process right.

006Active Listener substituting their own thinking or info for the speaker’s.

007Active Listener partially or fully reversing what the speaker has said.

008Active Listener commenting on what the speaker said- agreeing or disagreeing.

009Active Listener commenting on speaker - judging the speaker in some way (pos/neg).

011Active Listener asking a question of the speaker.

012Active Listener unable to ask the speaker to pause for reflection.

013Active Listener Reflections are much longer than the original.


014 - Speaker not pausing for reflection.

015 - Speaker not stopping at time limit (or shortly thereafter).

016 - Speaker is so scattered they are hard to follow.

017 - Speaker never acknowledges being heard even when reflection is accurate.

018 - Speaker choosing the previous speaker to be the listener.

019 - Speaker using their turn to address what was previously said, giving advice, etc.

043 - Speaker saying complicated concepts that are hard to follow for the listener.

Silent Listener

020 - Silent Listener holding up signs.

021 - Silent Listener stretching in the background.

022 - Silent Listener interrupting the process by demanding a turn to speak.

023 - Silent Listener turns off their camera.

024 - Silent Listener is drinking a hot beverage, leaves the room/screen or using their phone.


025 - Participant objecting to the process.
         (Sample Model - team works together on developing this.)

003 - Participant is making distracting movements in the backgrounds, or writing in the chat.
(Michelle Clarke)

004 - Participant wants something more or different than the Facilitator can give.
Cat Spence)

002 - Participant tells the facilitator they want a deeper and more intimate experience than they are having in the circle.
 (Selene Aitken)

026 - Participant wants to ask a question.

027 - Participant wants a natural flow of conversation.

028 - Participant doesn't like being told when I can speak and for how long.

029 - Participant says we are just parroting what the speaker is saying, I want to talk about what “Steve” said.

048 - Participants turn off their cameras in the Empathy Circle for various reasons.

044 - A participant says they only want to watch and not take part in the Empathy Circle.
045 - A participant enters a zoom call and does not turn on their video or audio.


505 - As a facilitator, how do I remember to do all the things like keep time, track turns, Etc.?

005 - Facilitator: If I organize an Empathy Café (online or in-person) with 20 people and I am the only Empathy Circle Facilitator, how should I do that? 
Kelly Meyers

031 - Facilitator feel anxious. There are lots of things to keep track of.

032 - Facilitator forgetting to start the timer.

033 - Facilitator losing track of who has been a Active Listener so far in a round.

034 - Facilitator permitting an Active Listener a 2nd turn before everyone else has had a turn.

035 - Facilitator offering guidance by saying what not to do, rather then what to do.

036 - Facilitator attempts to make the process go perfectly by intervening a lot.

Technical Issues

037 - Technical Issues How to continue to be inclusive when a participant has a poor internet connection.

040 -  Technical Issues Slow connection, connection cuts out all the time and how to deal with that?

038 - 
 Technical Issues Power Outages.

039 - 
 Technical Issues Monitoring Chat Function - using private chat or to everyone.

041 - 
 Technical Issues Muting participants who are not active speakers?


042 -  Other: How to facilitate Circles Outside of class?/ how do you do it with people who don't know, and you don't want to tell them this is an empathy circle ?

Others to Sort

046 - The Speaker selects their Active Listener, but they  want to  “pass” on being the Active Listener.

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Available Pages

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