Explore and work through the blocks and 'resistance' to empathy. There are an amazing amount of blocks to empathy.
(see sub folders as well)

The blocks to empathy are mainly framed from an individualistic worldview.  How might we also list the social blocks to empathy? Or the social blocks to a culture of empathy?

Lists of Blocks

Facebook Questions:
  • Judgments
  • Shutting down, detachment, withdrawal
  • Diagnosing (analysis, criticism or comparison): "What's wrong with you is.."
  • lack of attention to what is being said
  • Feeling Stressed
  • ADVICE - I think you should....
  • One-upping: "That's nothing; wait'll you hear what happened to me."
  • Story-telling: "That reminds me of the time..."
  • Negative Judgments; "you're such an idiot"
  • Correcting: "That's not how it happened."
  • Sympathizing "Oh, you poor thing."
  • Feeling Fearfull
  • Blaming: "It is all your fault."
  • Tiredness
  • Problem-solving, giving unsolicited advise, trying to fix them
  • Education "You can learn from this...
  • Interrogation "How did it happen
  • Impatience when the person stays in story
  • Lack of time
  • Guilt tripping: "After all I did for you?"
  • Hearing their concern in your terms and not theirs
  • Positive Judgments; Praising, "you're so wonderful"
  • Less than compassionate connection with myself
  • Commiseration "He did that, what a jerk"
  • Perceived Time/empathy constraints
  • Someone Unable/Unwilling to Listen.
  • Ego
  • Attachment to a particular "formula" for empathy
  • Lack of empathy from speaker when roles were switched in the past
  • Self doubt/concerned that YOU may be judged by the other
  • Saying things like, 'Well, that's all in the past now."
  • Not knowing how to show understanding
  • 'Grilling' the person for concrete information before they are ready
  • Cognitive compartmentalization
  • Lack of context: "what is the background from which your comments arise"?
  • Instead of listening, people start talking at the same time as you
  • Hearing words but not tone or body language.
  • Stubbornness on the part of the speaker frustrating true dialog
  • Pressure to be helpful
  • Refusing eye contact.
  • Any of the above at any given moment.
  • Preoccupation with own problems
  • Ethnocentrism -- filtering what is being said thru one's own reference point
  • Brain/mouth says the lie. Heart/soul/energy says the truth.
  • Any feeling of being separate instead of one with your higher self and each other
  • Compassion/ Sympathy which fosters pity instead of empathy
  • I hope we raise awareness to just how challenging communication is
  • Person experiences only action as empathic, not listening
  • Overwhelmed by mode of expression: raising voice, pointing finger at me, etc.
  • Fear that the person is complaining/reproaching me.
  • Our own past experiences and hurts
  • Trying to change the other person.
  • Interruptions by anxious administrators
  • Same but different - "sad reminders of own past"
  • The other person does not want to be listened

    "Many of us much of the time and all of us some of the time are distracted, scattered, not truly attentive, formulating our next point while the other is speaking, drifting off, preoccupied, anxious, angry, defensive, rebutting, interpreting, judging, and so forth. We are not truly present. We have internal chatter going on. We are not one-pointed (Schuster, 1979). The receiver is partly jammed. There is static.We have anxiety, fear, guilt, worry, anger, and self-protection interfering with good contact."  EXPERIENTIAL LISTENING by NEIL FRIEDMAN

    Importance and Benefits of Empathy

    By Kendra Cherry
    :A few reasons why people sometimes lack empathy:
    • We fall victim to cognitive biases: Sometimes the way we perceive the world around us is influenced by a number of cognitive biases....
    • We dehumanize victims: People also fall victim to the trap of thinking that people who are different from us also don't feel and behave the same as we do...
    • We blame victims: Sometimes when another person has suffered through a terrible experience, people make the mistake of blaming the victim for his or her circumstances....:

    Using Logic

    How to disagree well: 7 of the best and worst ways to argue
    March 16, 2018
    Article Image

    Graham came up with these seven levels of a disagreement hierarchy (DH):
    • DH0. Name-calling
    • DH1. Ad hominem
    • DH2. Responding to tone.
    • DH3. Contradiction
    • DH4. Counterargument
    • DH5. Refutation 
    • DH6. Refuting the central point

    "1. Directing is telling someone what to do, as if giving an order or a command. ...
    2. Warning involves pointing out the risks or dangers of what  a person is doing. This can also be a treat.  ...
    3. Advising includes making suggestions and providing solutions, usually with the intention of being helpful.  ...
    4. Persuading can be lecturing, arguing, giving reasons, or trying to convince with logic.  ...
    5. Moralizing is telling people what they should do.  ...
    6. Judging can take the form of blaming, criticizing, or simply disagreeing.  ...
    7. Agreeing usually sounds like taking sides with the person, perhaps approving or praising. ...
    8. Shaming or ridiculing can include attaching a name or stereotype to what the person is saying or doing.  ...
    9. Analyzing offers a reinterpretation or explanation of that the person is saying or doing. ...
    10. Probing asks questions to gather facts or press for more information. 
    11. Reassuring can sound like sympathizing or consoling.  ...
    12. Distracting tries to draw people away from what they are experiencing by humoring, changing the subject, or withdrawing. ..."
    One-Upping - 
    Put-Downs -

    "Committing to no fixing, advising, “saving” or correcting one another.
    Everything we do is guided by this simple rule, one that honors the primacy and integrity of the inner teacher. When we are free from external judgment, we are more likely to have an honest conversation with ourselves and learn to check and correct ourselves from within"

    "To do this, you can bring in nothing from the past. So the more psychology you’ve studied, the harder it will be to empathize. The more you know the person, the harder it will be to empathize. Diagnoses and past experiences can instantly knock you off the board. This doesn’t mean denying the past. Past experiences can stimulate what’s alive in this moment. But are you present to what was alive then or what the person is feeling and needing in this moment? " Marshall Rosenberg

    Top 3 Take Aways from Empathy School

    "3. Avoid empathy blockers.There are a few actions to avoid if you want to make the person you are speaking with feel heard.
    They are:
    • Silver-lining it- Looking for the “good” in a tough situation. There may be a time and place for this, but that time and place is not when someone is first confiding in you.
    • Being a fixer upper- Jumping right into problem solving before listening to the other party and making sure they feel heard.
    • Interrogating- Asking many questions of the other person before mirroring what they are stating and feeling.
    • Stealing the thunder- Changing the topic of conversation to your own feelings or a similar situation in your own life.
    • Sympathizing- Telling the other party you “feel sorry for them”. This can actually be a block to forming the bond necessary to work past conflict. Sympathy is different than empathy. Empathy is what’s required for strong relationship building.""

    • Distraction, Busyness, Rushing
    • Your Body Can Block You
    • Awareness of Social Distance
    • Avoidance of Pain

    Discouraging words: Life-alienating communication
    List of blocks to empathy.

    "Research from teaching has shown that it is more difficult to empathize when there are differences between people including status, culture, religion, language, skin colour, gender, age and so on." 
    Source: Eisenberg N., Miller P. A. (1987). "The relation of empathy to prosocial and related behaviors". Psychological Bulletin 101 (1): 91–119. 

    “Ethnocultural empathy” assumes that empathy toward others probably increases if the other is similar to oneself in terms of ethnicity, gender, age, or cultural background. 
    Source: From Wang, Y. W., Davidson, M. M., Yakushko, O. F., Savoy, H. B., Tan, J. A., & Bleier, J. K. (2003). The Scale of Ethnocultural Empathy: Development, validation, and reliability. Journal of Consulting Psychology, 50(2)

    Twelve common barriers to listening are outlined below (McKay, et al., 2009). In what ways and under what circumstances might these barriers interfere with your listening?
      (CARE Approach)
    (McKay M, Davis M, Fanning P (2009) Messages: The communication skills book (3rd), New Harbinger Publications Inc.: Oakland. This book covers extensively different types of communication and includes exercises. Its techniques can be applied personally as well as professionally. )

    Comparing – Comparing interferes with listening because you are constantly assessing which of you, for example, knows best. While a patient is talking, you are thinking “If you think that is hard, let me tell you how hard it actually can be.”  (CARE Approach)

    Mind-reading – Mind-reading pushes you to look for hidden meanings rather than to listen to what is actually being said. You might not completely trust that the patient is being open or honest about what they really want, so you shift your focus to possible hidden meanings through changes in intonation or facial expressions  (CARE Approach)

    Rehearsing – Rehearsing means trying to look interested while you are planning and rehearsing your response.  (CARE Approach)

    Filtering – You listen to some things and not others often to avoid problems. For example, if you are afraid of confrontations then you will pay attention to what mood the patient is in. If you perceive no “angry” signs then you stop listening.  (CARE Approach)
     Judging – Judging is often done so quickly that you often do not realise that you have done it. However, when you subconsciously label someone as being unintelligent or lazy, you tend to pay less attention to what they are saying.  (CARE Approach)

    Dreaming – The patient’s words trigger your own associations and you go off in a day dream. When you continue to listen, the patient is talking about something else, leaving you with a gap in their story.  (CARE Approach)
    Identifying – Whatever the other person says can trigger memories of similar experiences and before you know it, you have interrupted the other person's flow in order to tell your story or started to think about your own experiences. Meanwhile you stop paying attention to the other person’s story.   (CARE Approach)

    Advising – You are keen to fix the patient’s problems and are ready with advice, reassurance and suggestions after only hearing a few sentences. You like to start your reply with “If I were you, I would…” However, whilst searching for advice you could be missing what the real problem is.  (CARE Approach)

    Sparring – Regardless what the other person says you start to look for issues to disagree and argue about. A common example is to make sarcastic comments to dismiss the patient’s point of view (the so-called put-down).  (CARE Approach)
    Being right – You will go to great lengths in order to try to prove that you are right, thereby using tactics such as making up excuses, talking over the other person in a loud voice or twisting the facts.  (CARE Approach)

    Derailing – As soon as you feel out of your comfort zone or bored you change the topic of the conversation, make a joke or banter in order to prevent any further discomfort. Meanwhile you stopped paying attention to the other person’s story.  (CARE Approach)

     Placating – You want to please and be nice regardless of the situation. You use words like, “of course you are”, “absolutely”, “really”, and find yourself unwittingly agreeing with everything they say.  (CARE Approach)
    Being seen and heard is one of my favorite experiences. There’s nothing quite like that moment where you feel like someone is totally listening and making space for your feels. It’s empathy in action...
    Here are the five classic anti-empathy strategies.

    1. Advice
    It looks like: “You really should talk to HR about that right now.”...

    2. Comparison
    It looks like: “I totally understand what you must be going through with your grandmother’s death. My dog died last year and I was so sad.”...

    3. Cure Evangelism
    It looks like: “Oh my God, Kate. Have you tried essential oils for your migraines?”...

    4. Cheering up
    It looks like: “The best way to get over a disappointment like this is to go have fun. Let’s go to this party!”..

    5. Sympathy
    It looks like: “I’m so sorry that happened to you. Oh, God I feel so bad.”.."
    "Overcoming Roadblocks to Empathy
    Roadblock 1 - Not Paying Attention
    Mirror neurons kick in strongest when we observe a person’s emotions. We see facial expressions, eye expressions, body position, and gestures. We may lackmotivation to pay attention to a person or we may be too distracted by our own thoughts or by other things around us while we are multi-tasking...

    Roadblock 2 - Feeling the emotion of the other person but not knowing how or when to communicate empathetically...

    Roadblock 3 - Not feeling the same emotion of the other person but knowing intellectually that you need to communicate empathetically. This is known as cognitive empathy. .."

    Fear of Empathy: because fear of Intimacy

    "Not all clients respond positively to an empathic, validating relationship. They withdraw from contact, because emotional intimacy frightens them. This can be explained by insecure attachment, which can result in fragile experience."


    Family Peer Support Buddy Program, BC Partners for Mental Heath and Addictions Page 12:
    "There are modes of communication which can block interaction and understanding. These blocks must be avoided if effective helping is to occur. The most common blocks are:"

    Phases of the Moon, Maine NVC Network Newsletter

    Empathy: Foundation of Emotional Health
    Trying to change the feeling or cheer the person up.

    Empathy: Foundation of Emotional Health
    Arguing with the feeling.

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