A Way of Being

Edwin's Basic Definition Model of Empathy as a Way of Being

Empathy -- a Way of Being. In a broader understanding and view, empathy is a way of being in relationship with life. It is an attitude of sensing into life with presence, deep listening, openness, a grounded sense of self, sensitivity to feelings, curiosity and care versus the blocks to empathy such as being judgmental, indifferent, detached, cynical, domineering, analytical, etc. Empathy is being sensitive to felt experiences and meaning in oneself, others and relationships. Like a diamond, this Way of Being is multi faceted.

Defining Empathy in the Context of the Empathy Circle: To define empathy in a clearer, more practical and concrete way, we use the Empathy Circle as a foundational practice to model and identify the different facets of empathy. The Empathy Circle is one of many practices that support the Empathic Way of Being.

Some of the Facets of an Empathic Way of Being Are:

Empathy -- with others

      • is a moment to moment sensing and feeling into the experiencing (feelings, thoughts, meanings, desires, etc.) of others.

      • is a deep form of presence and listening.

      • This quality of sensing into others can be deepened or blocked.

      • Empathic Accuracy is the process of the empathizer making their sensing more accurate to the fullness (wholeness) of what the empathee is actually experiencing. One way to do this is by checking ones understanding of someone else with them to see how well it matches their experience.

      • In the Empathy Circle

          • At a basic level, in the Empathy Circle, the Active Listener deeply listens to the Speaker and recaps their understanding of what they are saying, feeling and meaning to the satisfaction of the Speaker. This is the moment to moment sensing and feeling into the experiencing of the Speaker. The reflection or recapping of what was heard helps with deepening the accuracy of what the Speaker is trying to express.


  • is a moment to moment sensing into one's own experiencing (feelings, thoughts, meanings, desires, etc.)

  • In the Empathy Circle

      • In the Empathy Circle when the Speaker is heard, it creates support for the Speaker to feel into their own inner feelings and thoughts. Having the space to express oneself and be heard supports Self-Empathy.

Imaginative Empathy

  • Is imagining oneself in a role or perspective. Taking on a perspective and sensing what arises in oneself in that role or perspective. There are unlimited contexts for imagination.

  • In the Empathy Circle

      • In the Empathy Circle the participants can take on different roles and speak from those roles. For example:

Relational Empathy

  • Is an awareness of the quality and level of empathy in relationships. This is the level of mutual empathy between the people in the relationship. It is the quality of sensing into the experience of each other, the relationships and society.

  • In the Empathy Circle

      • In the Empathy Circle there is the awareness of the level of empathy in the circle with all the participants. We can evaluate the level of empathy in the group. What is an exercise we could do in the empathy circle? On a scale of 1 to 10 what is the level of empathy in this group? What could be done to deepen the level of empathy?

Empathic Action

  • Is a mutually negotiated process of making mutual agreements and action together. This process is clearly demonstrated in conflict mediation when the disputants have come to some mutual understanding and then negotiate how to move forward and they use empathic listening for the discussion.

  • In the Empathy Circle

      • In the Empathy Circle when participants negotiate what steps they will take to do an action.

      • What is an exercise we could do in the Empathy Circle to explore ?

      • Plan an action, use the Empathy Circle to make

Culture of Empathy

  • Is being aware of the level of empathy in an entire culture and working to raise that level. The Culture of Empathy is the intention and vision to raise the level of Empathy in society by various creative means. For example, training, education, changing social structures so that they support mutual listening and dialogue, etc.

  • In the Empathy Circle

      • In the Empathy Circle we create a mini culture. We can sense the wholeness of all the participant and sense the level and quality of the Empathic Way of Being between all participants. It is like coming into a room full of a group of people, we can feel the energy and dynamic of the room full of people. It could be tense, sad, joyful, depressed, inviting, etc. We dialogue and work on ideas for transforming the society and culture.

More Facets...

  • many more, if not unlimited, words can be used to describe other facets of an empathic way of being.