The Basic Empathy Formula

The Basic Empathy Formula

The Basic Empathy FormulaBy John McCann

The Basic Empathy formula can be used for reflecting of what someone is feeling or saying.

The basic empathy formula is you feel (happy or sad) because of (experience or behaviour).

Minimal Responses

“’Mm’, ‘Mm-hmm’, ‘A-ha’, ‘I see’, ‘Yes’, ‘OK’, ‘Really’, ‘Sure’, ‘Right’, ‘Oh’, and ‘Really’”

Example 1

Colleague Statement: You know John, when I come in I always find things are not done. I need to do the uncompleted tasks and then start on my work (raised voice) – it’s not fair – I’m sick of it.

Leader: You feel____________because you think you are being ________________.

Example 2

Colleague Statement: You know I don’t understand why they do it. I’m sure they would not like it if that happened to them and it’s affecting the overall performance of the team.

Leader: You’re feeling____________because you are so ________________.

Example 3

Colleague Statement: You know John, I’m always doing things for other team members, I’ve got most of the prospects and they just sit in the office and take my leads – it’s not fair.

Leader: You feel____________because you think you are being ________________.

Example 4

Colleague Statement: You know Lynette, here I am at 48 and I don’t own my own home, I’ve got no money, I’ve never felt so low.

Leader: You’re feeling____________because you are so ________________.


Notice that the responses are short and not wordy.

It can be uncomfortable to be a leader, receive feedback and listen to another person’s disappointing experience. But it is important to be empathetic and not defensive. By discussing these issues with empathy, you can develop a higher level of trust and honesty and become more relaxed and conscious of the kind of influence you want to have with staff.

It is very tempting to react and defend yourself, but in most cases, you have no idea what that person is going through and they are not necessarily having a go at you. It is important to really listen to what a person is saying but also listen to the person who was saying it.

Everyone deserves to be really respected and regarded. When you start authentically ‘seeing’ others as unique human beings and when you really listen to another person, you will discover how amazing and truly wonderful the people you spend your life with are – but only if you really pay attention.

Listen for one more minute.

Remember that when dealing with people, fast is slow and slow is fast.

Give advice – but only when it’s asked for.

Contact us now if you would like to learn more about the basic empathy formula.