been right and he had responded, "Boy, would I love to do
that!," it would have been a 3.0 response.
Nichols (1995) says it is usually our emotional reactions to
what has been said that causes our misunderstandings.
Example: the talker says something that triggers our anger,
insecurity, hurt, defensiveness, or other emotion (not
necessarily related to the speaker), which distracts us.
Level 3.0: An accurate empathy response captures the
essence of the talker's feelings.
You have put yourself "in their shoes." Your comments
reflect exactly what the talker has told you. Be brief. Use
simple words and your own words, called paraphrasing;
otherwise, it may sound like you are thoughtlessly "parroting"
him/her. In this way, the talker knows you are attending
closely and that you care. It is important to realize that no one
can be an accurate empathizer every time he/she responds.
Thus, even the best therapists will average 2.5 or 2.7 on this
scale. Be tentative, because empathy statements are really
questions. For example, when you say, "You are feeling down"
you are really asking "You are feeling sad, right?" When you are
slightly off the mark, it isn't awful, it gives the talker a chance
to immediately "set the record straight" and get you precisely
in tune with him/her. So, it is important to make frequent
comments reflecting your understanding of what has just been
said. If the talker gets no comment from you for two or three
minutes, he/she doesn't know "where you are at" and may
conclude that you have lost interest, disapprove of what he/she
is saying, or don't understand.
Example: if a friend calls and blurts out what a terrible day
she has had--the car wouldn't start, co-workers were talking
about her, she heard a rumor that her company was going
broke, and she found out she has herpes--and you respond,
"You really feel overwhelmed, like everything is out of control
and going against you." If she says, "That's exactly how I feel,"
your comment was a 3.0 empathy response. If she says, "Well,
frankly, I was pissed off all day and I'm still steaming," you get
a 2.0 or a 2.2 rating although you made a good guess.
Level 4.0: Adding to the talker's self-understanding.
It is possible for an astute empathizer to understand
(guess) what the talker is feeling even before the talker has
recognized and/or expressed his/her own emotion. As soon as
the empathizer questions if the talker might be feeling a certain
way, the talker may readily recognize the underlying emotion
and accept the interpretation. This can add greatly to the
talker's insight, awareness or understanding of his/her feelings
and the situation. It takes a while to know anyone well enough