Balancing Empathy with Personal Position Neutrality

Well I’ve been facilitating, learning, and progressing with Breakview Sensitivity Training now for just over two months, and one thing that has been developing in my skill set is the ability to display an effective level of empathy with my clients’ feelings while also managing to keep the lesson productive. Given the importance of one’s neutrality in the role of facilitator, there are multiple skills related to this topic that I am focusing on improving in order to make each course a success. This post outlines my most recent developmental focus points. The ideas and tips mentioned below come, for the most part, from my trainer and mentor, Charles Gordon.

One of the biggest reasons why this set of skills requires strong understanding and experience is because it is natural for us as humans to convey empathy and console others when they talk about their stressors and frustrations. It is natural to try and help others solve their personal issues. In order to avoid these instincts during a training and keep a safe culture for all, it is important to keep a few tips in your back pocket in the likely event that your client decides to share their personal story with you. The tips can be found below, however first I present two steps to take when listening to a client’s personal issue — all provided to me by Charles.

Steps for Handling a Client’s Personal Perspective

“First, acknowledge the positive stuff or the validity of their concern or narrative. Finding some kernel of truth (positive) or acknowledging their concern makes it easier to redirect or help them to have a serious look at their own blind spot or faulty storyline.

Second, use questions to redirect or present the big idea of the lesson as a tool to adjust their narrative in a way that leads to a constructive conclusion or way forward.” (Charles)

Using these steps helps facilitators learn how to listen and redirect discourse into a progressive direction. Before these steps are even necessary, however, one can practice some new systems of logic in preparation for future instances by remembering three tips: (1) understanding your natural limits is important, (2) getting involved in clients’ specific issues is not helpful, and (3) social time (lunch, breaks, etc.) is a time for examplar behavior.

(1) Always consider your limitations. In a five- to seven-hour session, a client can only take-in so much. A facilitator should exercise professional judgement and guide the course through a healthy, relevant set of lessons and remember that learning and compliance take time.

(2) Do not directly help clients solve their personal unique issues by offering your own opinions or intuitions. As Charles has said, “Sometimes we see a path (thought process or narrative structure) that makes sense and we try to sell our way of shifting the elements of their story. Don’t.” Otherwise we make judgements based on one perspective while also inserting ourselves into the story.

(3) Use your casual time with the clients (lunch, breaks, etc.) as a place for exemplary behavior in your role of facilitator. Respect the boundaries and the expectations that come with your role and stay true to the models we preach in our lessons.

The Big Idea

The big idea here is that facilitators must understand how to maintain an environment where sensitivity training clients feel comfortable receiving professional feedback and concentrating on their plan of improvement in the workplace. As stated previously, a facilitator should never make judgments based on the client’s one perspective of the story; in fact we should keep a neutral stance by “maintaining a questioning posture” and holding the the mindset of “I need to make it safe for clients to challenge their own presuppositions and mythical beliefs” (Charles). New information and action plans can take time to latch on, however a successful course can guide clients closer to the information they need most. By keeping these ideas in mind and ready for use in a session, one can stay professionally neutral while at the same time showing empathy for the client and their personal issues.

Saying What You Think Could Destroy Your…

Do You Have Permission


Is that me? I finally had the courage to lookup the definition.

Afraid to speak frankly or straightforwardly

Not willing to speak the truth in clear and simple language

Not plain and straightforward

There is nothing anodyne or inoffensive about being labeled “afraid to speak”. Who wants to be labeled as a willing trafficker of muddy water to people who are thirsty for a drink of frank, straightforward speech.

It’s silly to refuse speaking in a way that people want and deserve, clear and simple language.

If someone else’s lack of clarity about what you know to be true could lead to a loss of life then say it in plain, clear, and simple language. Say it with few flourishes and no drama.

Apart from that, you need permission.

We enter a person’s personal space such as their home or car with permission. Anything else is trespassing.

Before you engage in plain talk, make sure you have the other person’s permission. Make sure  you are in a relationship built on mutual trust. Now don’t assume that general trust means permission. Treat each topic as a case unto itself.

Violence in the Workplace

Workplace-violence-croppedThe issue

Workplace violence is a health and safety issue.

It includes:

  1. Threatening behavior – such as shaking fists, destroying property, vandalism, or throwing objects;
  2. Verbal or written threats – any expression of an intent to inflict harm;
  3. Harassment – unwelcome behavior, such as words or  gestures, that demeans, embarrasses, humiliates, annoys, alarms;
  4. Verbal abuse – swearing, insults or condescending language;
  5. Physical attacks – hitting, shoving, pushing or kicking;
  6. Spreading rumors – such talking about a person’s personal life;
  7. Theft of company or personal property;
  8.  Rape, arson and murder are all examples of workplace violence.


One-on-one Violence in the Workplace webinar lasting 3 hours.
The training is based on the philosophy that personal growth comes when we take ownership of and set boundaries on our behavior. In addition, relationships work best when individuals focus on the impact of their behavior rather than intent.

The workshop will give the attendee some practical tools and techniques that will improve their ability to manage and express their emotions in a way that:

  1. recognizes the power of  emotions to create a hostile environment;
  2. discerns (detects with the senses) the emotional boundaries (property line) of others;
  3. reflects a professional persona.

The webinar is build on 3 BIG IDEAS:

  1. What we tell ourselves about an event is what causes us to get angry;
  2. If you adjust your attitude (beliefs and expectations), you can deal with the most frustrating situations constructively;
  3. We all need to take ownership of our role in making the workplace a great place to be.