Empathy Development Maui NVC Self-Empathy Social and Emotional Learning

Standing Your Ground on the Foundation of Intention

Effectively connecting to the Zero Step leads you to understand the needs you are hoping to meet before you open your mouth.  The next step to weaving a connected conversation begins with warmly and vulnerably exposing those needs when you start a conversation.  In other words, we let the other person know our intention and what is important to us about connecting right now:

“Honey, I so deeply appreciate the connection we’ve been having recently, and I’m eager to continue to deepen that connection…”

“Bill, I’m hesitant to bring up a point of tension between us, but clarity and connection really matters to me…”

“Jane, I feel regretful about what happened the last time we spoke, and I’m hoping to repair any damage that was done…”

“Son, I’m so grateful to see that you have taken the garbage out without being asked!”


Expressing our vulnerability increases the likelihood of creating a compassionate and open response in the other person.


Contrast vulnerability with the other habits we may have in opening conversation:

Blame (“You didn’t pick up the tomato sauce!  How do you expect me to make dinner?”)

Complaint (“You left the gate open again!”)

Sarcasm (“You are so prompt! This time at least we will only be fifteen minutes late!”)

Criticism (“You always interrupt me when I am talking!”)

Contempt (“You are such a lying snake.  No wonder you’ve been divorced three times.  No real human being could stand to stay married to something like you!”

Conviction: Beginning to Build A Case “You said when you left home this morning you would call when you got to the office.  You didn’t. Then you didn’t respond to either my voice mail or my text message. When I drove by the office this afternoon, your car was not in your parking spot.  You told me you would be there all day.”

Comparison “I don’t get as much “me-time” as you do!”

Correction “You never put your clothes in the hamper!  If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a million times!”

Denial of Responsibility “You didn’t give me what I needed to finish the project on schedule!”

Demands: “I have told you a million times, if you don’t do your chores, no screen time for you!”


These old habits are easy to spot because they almost always begin with the same word:  “You”. Careful cultivation of the Zero Step helps you to transform each of these habits into connection.  Noticing yourself in a pattern gives you the chance for a do-over. Noticing the habit in another gives you the chance for self-connection, empathy and honesty.


Three Practices:

1.  Guided Self-empathy.

2.  Empathy.  As you listen to your partner role play the other, make a guess about what they are feeling and needing.  Acknowledge the other person’s experience. Role play the empathy with your partner:


For example:  You hear: “You didn’t pick up the tomato sauce!  How do you expect me to make dinner?” (INSIDE JOB:EMPATHY)  I’m sensing disappointment, frustration and eagerness because ease, support and contribution are important…”

EXPRESSING EMPATHY:  So, you’re disappointed and frustrated that you need tomato sauce for making dinner.  Do want to brainstorm ideas about what to do about that?”


3.  Authenticity.  What could you do differently?  Now that you have empathized with yourself and the other, you can imagine what you could do if you were in a similar situation, and wanted to practice clarity, warmth and vulnerability.  What could you say to open the conversation?


First, remember the zero step!


Second Consider these four questions:

What’s happening?  I planned on making spaghetti for dinner and I do not have the tomato sauce.

How do I feel about it?  I feel eager and frustrated

Who needs what?  I need support and connection; guessing the other needs to contribute.

What might help?  Collaboration emerging from a soft startup:

“ Honey, we don’t have any tomato sauce for the spaghetti.  I’m freaking out a little bit because I wanted to make spaghetti tonight because we promised the kids  Are you willing to help me figure out what to do?”


Now, working with your partner, answer the four questions and craft an opening that conveys clarity, vulnerability and warmth based on your scenario.  Feel free to write it here:

Jim Manske
Certified Trainer for The Center for Nonviolent Communication,
President, Network for NVC
Please join me in a commitment to live from the consciousness that we are

Please, let every word that you speak or type be empathically cleansed of
any thought or feeling of separateness before you open your mouth or press “send”. (This in no way implies there is a correct form!)

Please, let every word you hear be filtered by empathy so all you hear is “Please” and “Thank you”.

Please, let every communication express our common aim of living nonviolence and compassion.

May we remember our vision and mission each and every moment, and measure our own actions (and inactions) in relation to those commitments.