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Empathic conversations

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Empathic conversations

I think we all have empathy. We may not have enough courage to display it. — Maya Angelou

  • 15 minutes
  • Serves 2
  • Easy



Stepping towards empathy and compassion.

After years dedicated to serving others, many changemakers suffer from the so-called ‘compassion fatigue’ or ‘empathy burnout’, which pushes them to disconnect and isolate from others. However, the way to cope with these is not to avoid empathising with the other, but to embrace them with even more compassion and empathy. Combined together, compassion and empathy pave a way forward for changemakers to build deeply nourishing connections and thrive in their life.

We explored this topic in an article for tbd*, A path towards wellbeing for the burnt-out generation, and below we present you a quick recipe to start engaging in empathic honest conversations. The following activity has been kindly crafted by Tribeless, one of our great partners. If you enjoyed it, we invite you to check out “36 Qs for increasing closeness”, a longer and deeply connecting practice to foster understanding, connection, and trust? And if you are ready for the next level up, consider joining a Tribeless Conversation or contacting us to host one for your group of changemaker friends and/or colleagues.

Our partner Tribeless has created The Empathy Box, a conversation tool that encourages a safe space for people to have the conversations that matter. The Box consists of conversation cards that, when paired with a specific set of rules and compassionate facilitation, provide a structure for empathic listening and sharing in a small group. We organise sessions for changemaker groups, organisations, and communities.

*Image © Tribeless



Setting the circle

Invite 2-4 friends whom you would like to get to know better, sit in a circle, and turn off your phones. You may want to put them somewhere not clearly visible.


Opening the circle

Ask everyone to pick one word out of these 5 words:

1. Responsibility
2. Relationship
3. Trust
4. Love
5. Fear

Once everyone has a word (two people can't choose the same one), invite them to say a couple of sentences on why they picked their word.


Sharing and Responding

Invite one person to volunteer to share first.

1. For the next three minutes, the volunteer will talk more about their word while the others listen actively without speaking until three minutes are up or until the person is done speaking.
2. Once that person is done, the others may respond by starting their sentence with "Thank you for sharing, I…" or "Help me understand…" The responses goes on for two minutes only.
3. Once the two minutes are up, the whole process repeats until everyone has talked about their word.


Closing the circle

At this point, invite everyone to reflect for 60 seconds in silence based on the question: "What do you appreciate from this conversation?"

When time is up, invite everyone to answer the question briefly (go clockwise). Once everyone is done, you may take back your phones.

Greta Rossi

Chief Empathy Officer at Akasha Innovation. Co-founder of ImpactAimers and Recipes for Wellbeing. Regional Coordinator for Ashoka's ChangemakerXchange. Youth coach and FRSA.

Council circle