Meetings‎ > ‎

2016-02-01 LR

Monday, February 1, 11 am PST

more reports pending.

YouTube Video

Feedback Reports

Xuan Zhau  

I like

  • I like that people shared similar opinions on issues we need to address.
  • I like that we are gathering momentum for a much needed endeavor. 
  • I like that our discussion was full of ideas and intellectual sparkles.

I wish 

  • I wish we could make it an 1-hour meeting (or at most 90 minutes) if we're going to make it a bi-weekly gathering.

 What if 

  • What if we come up with intuitive ways to sort empirical research into categories (e.g. divided by the population receiving intervention & the purpose of training, such as business context, autism, youth leadership, prisoner, marriage, doctor, etc.). 


About publishing 

  • My general experience with review paper is that, if you want to publish it in a good peer-reviewed journal, then you need to have a clear point (instead of merely "let me summarize what's out there"). I think it's certainly motivating to think about the opportunity for publication; but writing review is time-consuming and less rewarding than publishing empirical research; so, we need to make a careful decision here and see if we have a clear point that is worth shouting to the world.
  • A book chapter, because it's not peer reviewed, is a different thing. You can publish virtually whatever you want.

Edwin Rutsch 

I like…?

  • I like that everyone took part and the sense of gratitude I feel.
  • I like… the level of interest in empathy and interest in the project by everyone!
  • I like…the professional background of participants. 

I wish….?

  • I wish… we had better minutes and documentation of the meeting.

What if…?

  • We use Empathic Inquiry (DF as done by Rosa) sometime to explore how to create this project. This means an open brainstorming on the question with reflection by the facilitator, and a writing down and organizing of the ideas generated. Also that we do this in and get familiar with using that platform.
  • We use empathic listening some of the time in the meeting to create an empathic way of being in the group. So that we are not only studying empathy but fostering that way of being in the team as much as possible..
  • When people are not talking they are documenting what is said and jotting down their ideas.
  • Before the close of the meeting, we organize the discussion notes into a clear ‘article’ so that we have a clear capturing of the meaning that was generated in the meeting.


many thanks for hosting this wonderful meeting. It was great for me to take part and I felt very intrigued to meet so many like-minded persons. 

It was also great to meet some other PhD-researcher researching in a similar direction!

I liked…
  • The open atmosphere and the free exchange of ideas.
I wish…
  • Like Xuan I think that a fixed timeline would be nice
What if…
  • I like your ideas, Edwin.
  • I also like Xuan idea of splitting the bulk of literature into categories makes a lot of sense. These categories could also be like tags. Many publications will fit into more than one category.

Yonty Friesem

I liked... to have this energy and enthusiasm in the conversation. Kudos to Edwin for gathering and organizing such a skillful amount of people who are so devoted to looking at empathy training.

I wish... we would have a useful platform to share the references such as citation manager (RefWorks or Mendeley).

What if.... we can think of a publication of body of work that we are going to do. Like an edited book that each one of you would contribute a chapter - it would look on your CV, be professionally important, and contribute for our cause.

Mercedes Calcaño  
I relate to our ideas and feelings about the meeting. Thank you Edwin and Melissa for making it happen.

I liked,
  • The free exchange of ideas, the commitment to the subject, the different perspectives that came across in the conversation and openness to listen to one another without judgment. 
  • Being part of such interesting and prepared like-mind people. I am grateful. 

I wish,
  • As Xuan and Sascha a 1 to 1:30 length meeting twice a month. 

What if,
  • Categories and tags sound wonderful for me. 


I liked… 
  • meeting wonderful people who share a common research interest! And, having my own thinking spurred, as a result… 
I wish… 
  • we could have a bit more time to talk about the general parameters of this project, as it seems to me there are some juicy questions here about parameters, scope, underlying assumptions, etc. 
What if… 
  • in the process of getting very clear about this very specific project, we also got clear about a few other empathy-related projects that may be needed?

What I've written below, is not the "five research articles evaluating the success of empathy training", though I will look for something along these lines when I return home from this work trip. 

Instead, I've pointed to some background assumptions that could be helpful for us to surface and explore -- both as background for making our work more relevant to practitioners, and also, so we can better learn from practice-based knowledge, how we might advance our respective academic research agendas.

The program where I am working toward my PhD. (Fielding Graduate University, in Human and Organizational Systems) places a great deal of emphasis on epistemology, the theory of knowledge that informs our approach to research. One perspective that has been very influential for me is Donald Schön's critique of the prevailing model of technical rationality, which assumes a normative, one-directional relationship between academic research and professional practice. In The Reflective Practitioner (1983) he instead highlights the kind of ongoing discoveries, the "applied research" and the "reflection-in-action" in which professionals are continuously engaging.
Another powerful inspiration regarding different kinds of knowledge (academic and practice-based) along with their relative status, has been an article by Rynes, Bartunek, and Daft on "Across the Great Divide: Knowledge Creation and Transfer between Practitioners and Academics" (2001). While this article primarily addresses knowledge creation and transfer within the field of management studies, I highly recommend it as offering some relevant background to our shared work here. For one thing, it is a good initial introduction to Nonaka's work, a brilliant theorist on how knowledge is created, who addresses both the tacit and the explicit domains of knowledge. (Btw, I do not see a one-to-one correspondence between the tacit and explicit dimensions on the one hand, and practitioner and academic dimensions on the other; many practitioners have been working hard to make their knowledge explicit, even though their ways of doing so may not have academic currency.) 
Interestingly Rynes, Bartunek, and Daft's article mentions empathy repeatedly, as a necessary factor in collaboration between practitioners and academics in knowledge-creation. Since I believe this kind of collaboration is one of the ultimate goals of our work, it may be useful for us to "begin with the end in mind", by exploring some salient academic work with regard to knowledge transfer between these two domains. Hence my suggestion of this article as a shared base -- if not for this group doing the lit review, maybe for a future group that is working to build a bridge between academic researchers and practitioners in the field of empathy, a bridge that is designed to move in both directions.
Here are some relevant quotes from the article: 
"Nonaka et al. suggest that unless successful socialization occurs between academics and practitioners-with each side truly understanding and empathizing with the other-attempts to transfer explicit knowledge across boundaries are likely to fall on deaf ears." (p. 348)
"Nonaka's theory of knowledge creation, as well as the Amabile et al. and Mohrman et al. articles in this volume, stress that good social relations, mutual empathy, and some sort of common ground are prerequisites for achieving optimal outcomes in cross-boundary knowledge creation (see Bartuhek & Louis, 1996; Easterby-Smith & Malina, 1999; Rogers, 1995)." (p. 349) 
With regard to externalization, the process by which the tacit knowledge that practitioners gain from practice is made explicit, here is another relevant quote from the article:
"A good example of externalization is provided by Amabile and coauthors (2001), who describe how challenges from practitioners made academics aware of their preconceived notions with respect to both research process and substance." (p. 348) 

This last quote points to some of what I'd like to offer, in the rest of this e-mail: an exploration of a few places where we may be coming from different assumptions, given our different backgrounds...
As you might recall, my first puzzlement during our meeting, was in attempting to conceive what it might mean, to research the effects of "empathy training".  The reason for my confusion: in the Focusing field, many of us have been training for years, to provide deeply empathic "listening responses" to another person.  I include below links to two articles that explore in depth what these kind of "listening responses" look like. These are not research studies of the outcomes from training people in this work; instead, they more closely resemble phenomenological accounts by eminent practitioners, of what it is that we are helping people to learn to do, in our form of "empathy training".  

Here's the rub, though -- we have seen that even when people develop this ability to listen very empathically to another person, this may often be limited to a particular context – within the context of a therapy relationship, and/or, within the context of a lay, peer-based, "turn-taking" Focusing partnership, where we are explicitly connecting in order to exchange mutual support . (Many Focusing practitioners are NOT therapists, though many are; I don't have any data on percentages, but I would hazard a guess that it may be about half-and-half.)
It has been a real concern for me, to see that this amazingly developed empathic listening skill, does not necessarily say very much about what we as Focusers are able to do, when confronted with a situation that is outside the above parameters. For example, say we are in a normal conversation with a person with whom we disagree, and that person triggers us. Our ability to offer empathic listening responses can diminish greatly.  

I have seen this occur repeatedly – of course, more often with some of us than with others. It may depend on how much pre-existing trauma someone is bringing to their practice of Focusing; it may also depend on how much other personal growth and healing work someone is doing (in addition to, and outside of their lay Focusing partnership) in order to address that trauma. 

In other words, someone could be the most amazing empathic listener one moment, and not be so the next, in a different context. To me, this does not diminish the value of the empathic listening skill that has been learned; it does however, point to some of its limitations, as well as to the need to specify clearly, what it is, that we are measuring.

Then there is another practice in which I am less expert (yet still familiar with) called Non-Violent Communication (NVC). This practice is not so much about listening deeply and responding empathically to a person who is doing Focusing, as it is about listening to and responding empathically to anyone, in any life situation that might be occurring, by using the framework of "feelings and needs".  So in some ways, it is much more broadly applicable than Focusing. Yet it can take YEARS to master this work!!! 

So that is why I am still confused, when I try to imagine what we might be measuring as researchers, when we are measuring the success of a brief "empathy training"….

(Note: while it may seem that NVC is a more advanced or challenging practice than Focusing, and it may be so in some ways, there are other ways in which NVC practitioners report gaining a lot by their study of Focusing. I don't want to go into the complementary nature of those two practices here, though, as that's not the main subject of this e-mail.)

I also want to clarify, that I do not mean to condemn in any way, our efforts as practitioners and teachers within these two communities of practice. It's rather the opposite… I have great admiration of the many practitioners who sense the great social value of these two particular forms of empathy, and who have spent their lives learning these practices and helping others learn these practices.  

I know that as practitioners and teachers in these communities of practice, we are continually looking at how to improve and evolve what we do, learning from what works and what doesn't, always trying new things. And I deeply believe that we would benefit greatly from a real partnership with researchers, who are willing to listen and learn about what we know and what we don't yet know, just as we as practitioners, need to listen and learn about what researchers know and what researchers don't yet know…  

Ok, I will need to wrap this up for now.  Here are the two links to what we mean by "experiential listening" in Focusing… it may be somewhat beyond what we are meaning by "empathy" here, but there is certainly a connection. As mentioned earlier, we teach this to regular people, not just to therapists, though both of these articles are by therapists. The first one is by Neil Friedman, and may be more accessible;   
The second one is by Eugene Gendlin, Carl Rogers' student, colleague, and eventually research director. BTW while Rogers is remembered primarily as a humanist, he also loved science, and was the first to do empirical studies on the effectiveness of different forms of therapy—showing that it is quite possible to do both… (be a humanist and do science! :-)   
Both Gendlin and Rosenberg, the founder of NVC, were more active in academia at an earlier point in their lives... and then later turned more to developing their respective communities of practitioners. Both were also very inpsired by Rogers, so in many ways these are "sister communities". I will be glad to some research at some point soon, to see what I can find in the academic literature regarding these two approaches... as well as, regarding other forms of "empathy training". 

And, here are the two references mentioned earlier... the first, on collaboration between academic researchers and practitioners, and the second, on questioning our cultural biases with regard to different kinds of knowledge.  

Rynes, S. L.; Bartunek, J.M.; and Daft, R. L. (2001). Across the Great Divide: Knowledge Creation and Transfer Between Practitioners and Academics. The Academy of Management Journal. 44(2), 340-355.

Schön, D. (1983). The Reflective Practitioner: How professionals think in action. New York: Basic Books.

with all best wishes,

Wow, I love the rich set of topics you bring up.  There’s a lot to explore. Looking forward to talking with you all about it.

Are you essentially or mainly pondering What are we calling empathy training?
ie what are we measuring as empathy?

I’ve been thinking in terms of training an  ‘Empathic Way of Being.’
One inspiration for that is this paper and video by Carl Rogers. 
Empathic: An Unappreciated Way of Being -
How might we nurture an empathic way of being? 

 Also a grounding in biology would be helpful, what is going on with the neurons in our brain when we empathize? I see empathy as a process that integrates neural networks inside of us. That is Internally and between bundles of neural networks called brains.
Daniel Siegel   among others, is doing a lot along these lines to integrate the biology of empathy.

Then there is the human centered design approach of learning by doing. Create a mini prototype training as soon as possible and learn from the experience. How did it work for people? Then keep learning by iterating. 

One question I have is how might we proceed in this project with an ‘Empathic Way of Being?’

I read as well that Rogers talked about his holding the practitioner and scientific approaches at the same time and was trying to integrate them.



I liked.. 
  • that there are so many viewpoints, and diversity in our group. I think that will make the collection of data very right and valuable since we are not approaching this from just one perspective.

I wish...
  • that we lived closer so we could meet in person. Still the online working is as good as it gets I'm afraid. I do wish we could make sure there is a particular focus for each working group so it is not too broad. Focusing on academic publications in one group., and practitioner work in another group is great at this stage. Otherwise I think it will be too hard to sort through and compare. I do hope we can all use the same basic format for collection.

What if ... 
  • we made the 2 week meetings very specific and only 1 hour. So juist a crew to work on academ, pubs and schedule a 1 hours to see what we are missing, assign next tasks and go. I know meeting is tough, but we do need to touch base.

What if.. 
  • while we are working, we make note of specific authors who we feel would be interesting for a symposium/conference? I would really love to see us help with that as much as we can. Reading is one thing, but I am all for the richness of face to face meetings.

Analysis of the literature
  • I would love to work towards an analysis of the literature: whether that is in chapter form or publication , it does need to be relevant and be more than just a collection, as Yuan mentioned. I think focusing on methods, contexts and effects is very interesting : which methods are most effective form which context. Although I would still need to really look together at data to see if we could find the right "in".