Can you learn empathy?

By Aneta Antkiewicz

The empathy in Zen Coaching is not a communication technique but a deep and heartfelt way of being in a real life.

I was encountering empathy in many places, but it is the empathy in Zen Coaching that has a special place in my life. It has the quality of a kindness, warmth, deep contact, connection and coming back to myself. Can you learn empathy of that kind?

The traditional teaching is based on knowledge, the skills to analyse and to conclude. When I learn empathy, I need different qualities. Empathy is about being so I immediately recognize the teachers who prefer experiencing and reducing the amount of lectures. Those who help their students to build their own independence and self-confidence in their life outside of workshops, convince me even more.

But there is something much more important.

The empathy in Zen Coaching is not a communication technique, but a deep and heartfelt way of being in ordinary life which is determined by the authentic contact with what is real. To see what is real and not to run away – it sounds like a huge challenge for most of us as the staying with our discomfort, suffering or loneliness can be overwhelming. How can we admit that we are afraid of the critical thoughts about ourselves or desperately long for love, acceptance and work hard not to feel that? How can we be in a real life if we cannot get closer to it?

This is exactly the room for an empathy teacher. It would be perfect if he had managed to meet his own pain and can embrace and accept it. But sometimes it can be too difficult for him, too – how to accompany and support his students then? It is quite enough to see and acknowledge that struggling and not hiding it behind knowledge or skills because the most important competence if you teach empathy in Zen Coaching is to be true to yourself and others. When the teacher offers only his expertise and intelligence, it means no chance for experiencing love and empathic connection. Then it remains nothing but learning about empathy.


Aneta Antkiewicz