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March 27th Meeting: Empathy

March 14, 2013

At this meeting we discussed empathy from an Autism spectrum perspective. Empathy is usually defined as understanding what someone else is feeling because you have experienced it yourself or can put yourself in their shoes. That is not the same as sympathy: Acknowledging a person’s emotional hardships and providing comfort and assurance. Empathy requires that you must feel your own emotions which may be difficult for some of us on the spectrum. It is also more difficult to feel empathetic if you have recently been bullied, abused or ignored. While in a fight or flight mode you are much less receptive to your own and other peoples feelings.

Reference: Emotional mastery for adults with Asperger’s- practical techniques to work through anxiety, anger and depression. by Leslie Burby.  Chapter 6, The art of Empathy:

As someone on the autism spectrum, when engaging in a conversation with someone who needs empathy:

  1. Think of a personal experience that made you feel frustrated or sad like the person that requires empathy.
  2. Stop whatever you are doing and even though you may not look them in the eye, give them your full attention.
  3. Notice the person’s body language and non-verbal expression.
  4. Repeat back what they have said and ask “tell me more” (co-facilitators suggestion)
  5. Summarize your understanding. (co-facilitators suggestion)
  6. Compare your experience.
  7. Ask how to comfort them (co-facilitators suggestion).
  8. Ask if they feel better before walking away.
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