Explanation of the skill

Broadly speaking, "Emergency First-Aid" Empathy is a catchall category referring to all the times you empathize with one of the parties when they seem too emotionally reactive to either empathize with the other person or remain silent while the mediator is empathizing with the other. For instance, if person B starts talking while you are talking or while person A is talking, you might respond to person B's "interruption" with empathy, and then return back to empathizing with person A.

Emergency Empathy is used when addressing the challenge of supporting people in a conflict conversation to feel heard and understood by each other when they do not reflect back other's experience or needs. This skill involves shifting to empathy if we believe someone is not ready or willing to reflect the other's needs because they are too emotionally triggered and needing empathy themselves before being able to empathize with the other. Emergency Empathy may also be used in combination with Pulling by the Ears.

After offering Emergency Empathy, there is also the skill of Tracking (see next section), in which you return to where you were before giving Emergency Empathy and then re-request reflection of the other's needs now that the person has received some emergency empathy.

Examples of using the skill

Example 1: (When responding to an "interruption") "Excuse me, excuse me... Are you feeling urgent to be heard? Do you want to be sure that what you want to say is going to be considered fully?"

Example 2: (When responding to person B who has told me some of his pain about this situation instead of reflecting back person's A needs, as I had just asked him to do.) "Excuse me, excuse me... Are you saying this because you are feeling distressed about the situation too and you want that to be heard?"


Triad practice with skill of Emergency First Aid Empathy


     •  Set up role-play

     •  When mediator first asks person to reflect other's needs, disputants asked to express with a triggered emotional reaction instead of reflect back other's needs