Are You Giving Empathy, or “Schlempathy?”

(Note: NVC is an abbreviation for Nonviolent Communication, a fluid, ever-evolving language process created by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg. It is also sometimes referred to as Compassionate Communication, and is based on universal human feelings and needs, the giving of empathy and making humble requests rather than demands. For details on services offered by Steve Pollack, visit

Sometimes when we are in pain and in dire need of empathy ourselves, we try to give empathy to the other person involved in the painful situation. It is an admirable effort, for the noble intention is there to give empathy. It sometimes falls flat as we push ourselves to go through the motions half-heartedly, however, and the empathy comes out sounding more like what I call “schlempathy.” It may appear weak, or lacking conviction. It may come more from head than from heart, tending to be cursory or rushed, whereas deep empathy requires plenty of time. Strained empathy is a sign that we may need to give ourselves more emergency self-empathy, or even ask for empathy from others, before trying to give authentic, deep empathy.

If only we had the presence of mind, at moments like these, to say something like: “I know you’re wanting some understanding and empathy from me right now, and I’d so like to give it, but my empathy stores are so low that I’ll need some time and hope to give it to you soon.”

Remember that pure empathy is a fully-focused, compassionate presence, a willingness to listen closely and to care from a place deep in your heart. It is almost meditative, I would say, and thus it is a rare thing in this world. It gives us relief from the pain of our own unmet needs temporarily because it takes all our attention. Empathy is precious because it empowers us to reconnect with others in a healing, harmonious way that leads to a richer understanding and more harmonious relationships. It even helps us to be more compassionate with ourselves.

Remember that in chapter one of Marshall’s book on NVC, it is essential to give entirely from the heart, with no expectation of anything in return. We may hope for something in return, but there is no demand or hard expectation there. Also, it’s crucial to weigh the other person’s needs as equal in importance to our own.

If you’re needing empathy, and someone gives you a bit of instant “schlempathy” instead, would that fulfill your need for caring from the heart? If we are to treat others’ needs as equal to our own, then it is only pure, authentic empathy focused 100% from the heart to the recipient, that will build the connection we long for. Sometimes we may be tempted to offer “schlempathy” in a rush just so we can then ask for authentic empathy from the other person. In doing this, we are not really weighing their needs as equal in importance to our own, and it is less likely they will be able to give us the empathy that we need.

For details on services offered by Steve Pollack, please visit

If you’d like to attend his NVC Support Group while in Miami, see RSVP instructions at

About swpollack

I’m an independent mediator and collaborative communication coach who can help you to co-create greater ease, connection and mutual understanding in your personal and professional relationships. As a non-traditional specialist, my aim is to get concrete results for my clients in a fraction of the time usually required by traditional therapy and counseling. Please visit my business website: . The emotion-based coaching work I do is deeply therapeutic, yet I am neither a psychologist nor a psychotherapist. Instead I work with a holistic, empathic process called compassionate, nonviolent communication. I also facilitate ongoing support groups for people who want to learn this organic process of nonjudgmental communication to help build bridges of connection, harmony, collaboration and understanding. For more about my Build Compassionate Relationships meetup group, visit: . I’ve been offering these services to the public since 2000 in the greater Miami and Fort Lauderdale area, as well as by phone and through Skype conferencing. . Nonviolent Communication is a process developed by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg. It’s based on a very pure, nonjudgmental language of feelings, needs and requests. I’ve found this to be a powerful tool in my mediation work which involves bringing two or more people together despite a painful history of conflict.
This entry was posted in NVC. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *