Empathy Cafes‎ > ‎

2020-01-31 Conflict

Meeting Outline
  1. Welcome and Overview
  2. Participant Introductions
  3. How To Empathy Circle Video
  4. Empathy Circle Breakout rooms.
    1. Circle 1 - Edwin
    2. Circle 2 - Marta
    3. Circle 3 - Bill
    4. Circle 4 - Lou
  5. Full Group Debrief Questions: 
    1. Round 1: What was your experience of the Empathy Circe: I Like... I Wish... What If...?
    2. Round 2: Summaries what came up in your empathy circle?

Empathy Cafe: How might XR more effectively mediate conflict? Conflict is a normal part of life. In this Empathy Cafe, we will use the Empathy Circle process to discuss and take tangible actions on; How might Extinction Rebellion more effectively mediate, facilitate and resolve internal (and external) conflict?

  1. *Edwin Rutsch, SF Bay Area, CA, XR Empathy Work Group

  2. *Lou Zweier, North Bay Area, CA, XR Empathy Group Work

  3. *Bill Filler, SF Bay Area, XR Empathy Work Group

  4. *Marta Neto, XR Cork (Ireland)

  5. Liz Tufte, XR FoCo (Fort Collins, Colorado)

  6. Bob Brown, Thousand Oaks, California,

  7. AL, XR South Bay (Bay area of California),

  8. James Green, Syracuse New York,

  9. Cheila Rodrigues XR Lisbon, Portugal,

  10. Matteo Graldi, Ferrara, Italy,

  11. André Clements, Johannesburg, South Africa (IST Regen/Sys Dev/XRDeepAdaptation

  12. Andrea Zwingel XR Nürnberg, Germany,

  13. Sinéad Sheehan Ireland.

  14. John Roff

  15. Alexandra

  16. Joe and Nina

  17. ?

  18. ?

  19. ?

Empathy Cafe: How might XR more effectively mediate conflict?

Main Full Cafe with Empathy Circle  #1: Facilitator:  Edwin Rutsch
Conflicts mentioned in
  • XR Lisbon.. Groups wanting xr principles other groups wanting to organize their own way
  • XR San Francisco - mistrust of empathy
A speaker was not comfortable with speaking in monologue;

The Nature of Conflict

  • We can learn from conflict.
  • Conflict comes from different interpretations of the principles and values.
  • Conflict is not necessary to be avoided or to be overcome.

Empathy and Conflict
  • Empathy is a way of navigating conflict. It is a way of getting the value of conflict without losing connection.
  • Set Empathy as the common value - because then all other issues can be addressed

  • In Lisbon: Seeing the power over, colonial mindset.. We need change.
    • We don't have good new models for equal relating.
    • We have to create the model
      • How to create the new model: Speaker has inner conflict how to speak your mind but not hurt people. I speak my mind and that makes people see me as a trouble causer.
      • Want to hold integrity but not want to hurt people. Have to find a way to be in integrity and show care.
    • It was suggested that empathy is the basis of the new model
  • Lisbon... two groups, 
    •  old guard - men
    • new guard - woman

Taking empathy to Empathic Direct Action
  • Bring the powers that be into an empathic dialogue
Constructive ways of handling conflict
  • Some like to look for commonalities in people. A priority to stay connected to my feelings.
  • Don't just focus on the differences, it creates disconnection
  • Look for the commonalities. Creates connection.
  • When I experience conflict I like to stay aware of my feelings and manage my feelings.

XR and Conflict
  • What processes and methods does XR have for conflict?
  • Keep hearing about conflict resolution groups, but I never really see them.
  • Some would like to see a XR framework for dealing with conflict.
  • Want a document: agreement conflict handling up front.. (everyone will take part in an empathy circle plus being willing to practice in advance) it can bring clarity.
How to move forward with conflict?
  • A group conflict - get a group agreement around principles/values - don’t see that XR addresses this
  • Want a document: agreement conflict handling.

Empathy Circle  #2: Facilitator:  Marta Neto See YouTube Generated Transcripts 

YouTube Video

Conflict scales (internal, interpersonal - inside and outside of XR - at movement level in affinity groups, circles, local groups, in society at large)

What tools will work for XR to actually achieve its goals - get those in power to listen

Conflict avoidance, of even micro-conflicts, means people feel they do not belong/ feel excluded so they leave the group, leading to a homogeneous group. Conflict is the growing edge of XR and progress here can have the greatest impact, it can be XR’s doom or breakthrough.

Roger Hallam interview

In Germany the Roger Hallam interview (to do with the holocaust, that offended so many) led to a lot of discussion, still ongoing, belligerent responses, polarization of discourse, and there does not seem to be a way out of conflict for some groups. 

(It seems entirely possible that because of its historic legacy and ingrained/embodied/repressed trauma from the holocaust and the subsequent repression of emotional processing people in Germany today might struggle hardest (comparing to other European peoples) to walk through empathy and towards vulnerability and conflict - it might just be too painful and too unfamiliar. On the other hand, this might also be seen as an opportunity for the people in Germany to heal old wounds and move out of stuckness  and unhelpful habitual patterns. To support the incredible acts of softening (bravery) needed, it might be important that the international community is willing and able to support this walking towards what is there with kindness and softness to harvest and let go of whatever no longer serves - healers of Europe unite. And in doing so Germany might actually point out the way out towards our collective healing.)

Everyone is looking to ways to walk towards conflict - yet it’s not just about tools - it is necessarily a slow process but each step makes a difference - Dominic Barter - “the question is not “why do I not engage with conflict?” but “what supports do I need to be able to walk towards conflict?” -  understanding this increases capacity to support oneself as well as the other(s).

“Empathy removes the blocks to action”. Empathy and active listening can remove blocks in our thinking (provide aha moments) - then next thing is bringing it to the emotional realm where conflict lives (Dr Dan Siegel hand model of the brain).

When trying to explain to others why it is important/ the benefits of walking towards conflict, it is important to find concrete examples that people can relate to (e.g. explaining emotional labour to a man using examples of a context that he knows and in which he has experienced it - in his man shed being left to implicitly deal with tasks that others neglect like tidying, ordering, planning that are not sufficiently witnessed/ acknowledged/ appreciated).

Emotions and emotionality are pathologised in our society, and even within XR groups a healthy expression of our internal states can be responded to as off-putting and unnecessary/counterproducent. Being emotional/expressive/feminine is seen and treated as a weakness, discouraged and dismissed. This is a form of oppression. Is also outdated. How can it be transformed as we create a fairer society in which all forms of expression are valid? 

Excessive and relentless emphasis on action. “You are wasting our time” “This is not the way to make progress” Being silenced, and self-censoring, as a conflict between the masculine and the feminine, or left and right brain - as a sensitive/emotional/female/right-brained personality it is hard to stand up to activist masculine left-brain emotion-repressive types - XR needs to be more embracing of the balanced brain model - Sarah Peyton - Meta perspective on conflict - we don’t have time yet we need to develop these tools

How to avoid flightiness, anxiety/insecurity and conflict avoidance and encourage/support vulnerability, presence, and a clear investment in connection for movement building?

We need to become the people/culture that we need in order to have any hope of avoiding societal collapse and extinction.

We come to empathy circles not because we need them but when we feel supported enough that we find the courage within us to show up for ourselves and others and be present in this reality. 

Empathy Circle  #3: Facilitator: Bill Filler

YouTube Video

Empathy Circle  #4: Facilitator: Lou Zweier

YouTube Video

Return to Main Circle

Question 1:
What was your experience of the Empathy Circle?
I Like... I Wish...  What if.... ?


What I Like about Empathy Circles - All Benefits

YouTube Video

Individual Clips of Each Speaker


What I Like about Empathy Circles André Clements

YouTube Video

I also feel that I need some time to process  or contemplate this as it be is my first experience of an Empathy Circle.  I am convinced, like I was before coming in, that it would probably have a lot of value.   I'm convinced that it does. There are parts of it that don't sit comfortably with my normal preferences and how I like to work with things, which is more open and less structured. That comes partly from having a very creative and very natural background.

So I'm still trying to make sense of all of that. I found the conversations started happening about principles and values and that was very interesting.  I've got some points I'll actually take offline there, André Clements

What I Like about Empathy Circles Andrea Zwingel

YouTube Video

I really enjoyed our time together and there's a couple of things. I think it's really so counter cultural. I prefer more unstructured ways, but that is maybe because I have practiced this accurate listening. I love it when I see it happening. 

We listen through filters, that in itself is so helpful. I really came here, and I hoped that I could watch somebody facilitate, like listening properly to two people who actually have a real conflict. In Germany we've had so much shit throwing on Matter most.

There's so much proof that we don't know how to deal with conflicts. We all know we need this, but there's so many people, I feel, that I would like to invite, but I don't feel they have that sense of needing it, needing this. I think that is my growing edge and I'm so glad to been here. ― Andrea Zwingel


What I Like about Empathy Circles Bill Filler

YouTube Video

When somebody reflects back to you, they're not necessarily telling you something different, but it's like having the extra information from two focused eyes. You get a different perspective, a depth perspective, and I think that is important.

I know that people are considering this sort of personal level, with the political level. If you notice that basically the powers of authoritarianism are trying to divide us . What this does, on a very personal level politically, is that it unites us. 
― Bill Filler


What I Like about Empathy Circles 

YouTube Video

I am in awe of  Nellie, Martha and Andrea for their wisdom. It was such a privilege to be part of that group and to speak and to listen and to be encouraged by what what's going on and what possibilities there are for improving our planet. Bob Brown


What I Like about Empathy Circles Cheila Rodrigues

YouTube Video

My  personal opinion, you guys are rock stars to me.  What I just experience it was really, really amazing. The whole process of rephrasing what someone is telling us, without judgment, is a whole new process for me, but I was really, really motivated and looking forward to this.  I have my mind full of ideals that I want to discuss and share, and that's really good. I feel that my country is so far behind on everything that we are experiencing here. The real talk between people. 

 I have a lot on my mind at this time, so I I'm digesting the process,  but I loved rephrasing.

Cheila Rodrigues


What I Like about Empathy Circles James Green

YouTube Video

There was a lot to the short time that we spent together talking that I felt encouraged about. I'm familiar with this process so I am not surprised that I felt encouraged.  The paraphrasing, for me, is key and sometimes it can be really difficult to just find a group of people who come to that one agreement.  The agreement that the paraphrasing is valuable. We had that agreement, even if it wasn't written down. We all agreed that we're gonna try it and that to me is just the foundation from where a lot of very valuable work can be done.     I was happy to have had the chance to participate. James Green


What I Like about Empathy Circles Joe and Nina

YouTube Video

It was hard because I had to remember the things that people had said. It really works and it was a good thing for me to do. ― Joe

We all know that we are supposed to repeat back when people people are in distress and they're trying to tell you something. Instead of giving them advice, you just say, yes I'm hearing you. I think this could be widely used in general life.
 ― Nina


What I Like about Empathy Circles John Roff

YouTube Video

I am impressed. I met people from all over the world this morning and had conversation that felt was meaningful, that was valuable.  It’s such a simple thing, it's such a simple structure, and I'm encouraged that this can be done.   It opens a space. I mean this is good stuff. Thank you for he way that you've held this space. It  encourages me. John Roff


What I Like about Empathy Circles Liz Tufte

YouTube Video

My experience was that it was really bumpy at first until I got into the flow of it.  It's extremely hard work. I've done this two or three times. It's very rewarding to train my brain to feedback with no judgment and I felt supported and encouraged.  My what if... is what if politicians use these tools and what if we get coalition work using these tools, working with other cultures. Liz Tufte

What I Like about Empathy Circles Lou Zweier

YouTube Video

I love watching people really listen to each other and try to repeat back what they understand the other people are trying to say.  It's so heartwarming to watch people do that and it fills me with a lot of hope. I always get a lot of joy participating. 

The other thing is I'm just talking about conflict and listening to people talk about the kinds of conflicts they've been experiencing, I was just filled with lots of ideas that I didn't get time to express about how to deal with conflict effectively.  Different kind of strategies to use in addition to Empathy Circle practice or as little interventions that facilitators can do as part of Empathy Circle practice, that helps when people are having difficulty hearing each other.

Lou Zweier


 What I Like about Empathy Circles Matteo Graldi

YouTube Video

I'm really grateful for this kind of setting in the Empathy Cafe. It was great. Matteo Graldi

What I Like about Empathy Circles Marta Neto

YouTube Video

It was very special today.  I mean I left the method but today was very special.  I think we had an amazing group of brains in the room.  I wanted more. I've learned that I can't facilitate and take notes at the same time. I can, but it's not worth doing basically.  This thing about people thinking they don't need it, I think that's exactly what we need to rethink. That’s because it's got nothing to do with needing it, but to actually want to show up for life. 

It's, how do we entice people to actually show up for life, and then if they do that, they'll want to walk towards conflict.  A thing that Neli said was about people need supports and they need all else behind, so that they actually can be vulnerable.  That they're actually willing to even show up so.  And many other ideas. Marta Neto

What I Like about Empathy Circles Neli

YouTube Video

I really enjoyed to be part of this Empathy Circle group. This was my first time. I enjoyed that when I was understood easily and I also enjoyed when it was hard. I had to rephrase things and try to come closer to the other person. For me as a speaker it's more stressful, but it's also somehow a greater victory if you come through.

The other thing is that I'm amazed about how perfect words some people found for things which are very unstructured in my own mind and they could rephrase what I said in a way that was inviting for me. I will think further about the things which I had started to develop. Yeah, it's fun and I'm impressed. ― Neli


What I Like about Empathy Circles Sinéad Sheehan

YouTube Video

It was nice. I definitely had a lot more to say. I like the idea of Empathy Circles being part of the conflict process. I hope that we can write something that allows that to happen. There's something that slightly concerns me around it potentially being imposed or something. I know we don't do that in XR, but just around an indication and a guideline kind of thing.

There are other ways of facilitating and navigating conflict. I think the Empathy Circle is useful because it's simple and doable for lots of people. It doesn't require tweaking their facilitation skill. ― Sinéad Sheehan

(Nice. Had a lot more to say than I had time.  Like the idea of empathy circles being part of the conflict process.  It also concerns me that it might be imposed to do this. Want it to be an invitation instead.  It’s useful because it’s simple and doable. It does not require particular facilitation skills.  )


What I Like about Empathy Circles Al

YouTube Video

This was very encouraging. I think it's always helpful to see that other groups across the world are having the same struggles because they're all human struggles. It helps to reframe that, as “okay it's not just my group is completely failing” it's like “oh, no, this is actually very common and normal and it can be worked through, and it has been worked through before”. So this is just awesome, to be able to do the practice with folks and see perspectives from across the world. ― Al

(Al X: Encouraging.  Helpful to see that other groups around the world are having the same struggles.  It’s not that my group is failing. It’s a human struggle. Awesome to be able to do this practice with folks around the world. )

What I Like about Empathy Circles Alexandra

YouTube Video

I think it was great to have this experience. It was my first time. We also experienced major conflicts here in our country and it's nice to hear that it's not just here, but it's a human thing. It was great to talk with Lou, because I think he's had a lot of experience and it's really encouraging to see that with some more training we can achieve a better way to communicate with each other. It gave us some hope that in the future we can overcome these very hard conflicts. ― Alexandra

(Alexandra: Was great to have the experience. First time. We experience major conflicts in our country, like Al X said. Great talking with Lou, who has had a lot of experience. With more training we can achieve a better way to communicate with each other. Hopeful that we can overcome difficult conflicts in the future. (Isabella had to leave but had the same idea.))




Question 2: What is your summary of what came up in the Empathy Circles around Conflict?

YouTube Video

Bill: When someone reflects back, they are not telling you something different, but you get a depth perspective like two different eyes.  People are considering both the personal and political levels. Authoritarianists are trying to divide us, but this work unites us.  

Edwin: Quick final 30 second round.  Take aways.  

Cheila: We should think about having a consensus where we can make safe spaces where we can hear each other in XR spaces, to keep on resolving, using the method of paraphrasing, which is difficult to make.  You can’t force people to be available to life itself. There is an internal management, taking things personally, and also the group that must be balanced.  

Andre: Most alive for me is wanting to answer Edwin’s question, the principles and values.  The magic happens between the interaction with each of them. Edwin has what he wants. A shared vision, through empathy.  Principle 7, we accept everyone, the idea that a shared vision is authentic. Can’t get there without having felt the other side.  And communicate it. We can’t get everything we want so we need to return to the principles. 

Lou: Hearing about the frequency and sides of conflicts, wanting to know how to deal with it.  Circle practice and reflective listening as powerful tools. Training around what to do when circles get hot.  They are not in conflict. What happens when you get into a situation which is hot? A need to demonstrate that.  I’ve been in those kinds of circles. What do we do when we are at an assembly with 40 people and everyone is agitated.  Break them into small groups and have them do empathy or in pairs they process their energy before doing something in a large group.  They need to do something with those feelings. Have a pre-process for people to be heard.  

Mateo: The empathy circle can be used to transform conflict.  Previously only used it to get to know one another or calm down and around conflict that did not involve the participants.  

Andrea: My mind is active.  The structure is a good thing to have even if it’s not my preferred way, especially when inviting others in.  Dominic Barter says it’s about getting the support we need. As facilitators, to step into that role. We need deeper containers, to deepen their capacity for this.  Something happening on the surface and also at a deep level, so that complexity and intimacy can be held. They can become islands of sanity for people to get the support we need. 

Marta: Conflict is the growing edge of XR.  Where the jewel is. Either we get this right or we fail.  I want to brainstorm about the male/female, left/right brain, binds with Sarah Peyton’s work.  We’re all traumatized by our past experiences. We are chemistry. We need to go to that soft place.  If we tell that to people, it will make it happen in the space. We pathologize emotion, and that’s a form of oppression.  It requires that we work with that. That’s where the change in paradigm is, to let go of that oppression.

Neli; I want to share that many people feel helpless when they face conflict.  They say empathy circles would help but we can’t force people to do this. I want to tell them, we don’t have to force them.  Just try to get support for yourself. Find people who will reflect what you think so you can relax and get to a good level. Then you’ll be sensitive to what’s going on.  And from here you can help others applying it. You don’t need to wait for someone to agree to team up with you. You just start. Then when you have that support, you just reflect during a normal talk, on the street, in your family.  Reflect them in a subtle way so they won’t be annoyed. It heals and changes the relationship.  

John: Andrea spoke about deeper containers.  I’m connecting with it, even though not understanding completely.  I want to develop to be able to hold the space. I see the potential there.  I’m impressed and encouraged that it’s possible. It’s a container that holds huge potential.  I’m encouraged. I’m inspired. It’s so simple and so effective.  

Sinead: (breaking up)

Liz: We are sharing a lot but not solving.  Internal conflicts. A lot of listening. Authenticity and intimacy.  Let’s just listen to each other first. I’ve been practicing this and it’s just amazing.  When I stop and don’t interrupt or tell my story, it builds a much stronger connection. Thanks for helping me practice.  

Al X: We focused a lot on sharing rather than problem sovling.  Good to get the basic skill set. I want something where we can talk about more specific conflicts and come up with strategies for solving those.  This is a supportive group.

Alexandra: I would like to know more about strategies we can apply in the future.  I want to apply these skills in our new structure. I want to give feedback and keep in contact in the future.  Good to learn with all of you. We can apply Lou’s strategy, to split the big group into little ones so that anger and other bad emotions can be dealt with before tackling big problems.  

Bill: It’s simple.  But there is a magic of the empathic kingdom that we live in.  People all react to this. I always feel enhanced by it. That’s the society we are looking at with the empathy circle.  If more people bring their own candles that will help.  

Next Friday we’ll do this again.  

In 15 min for those interested in facilitating, we have a facilitators group.  

Viewer Feedback On Viewing the Cafe Video

Jacqueline Baynes 
I really enjoyed, was humbled and experienced peace following this exploration. The need to solve conflict with a higher vibration than the vibration that brought or brings up an actual conflict is vital. I agree that this call was to explore conflict without having an actual conflict that would have required a higher degree of keeping being of service to each other, but actually doing this without a conflict showed the need to explore the 'pre conflict' mindset and appreciate that it takes a willingness to learn how to facilitate and listen, and how vital it will be, when conflict takes over. This is a beautiful human skill that emphasises the best that co operation with each other can be.