Starting on the path to Radical Empathy

Radical Empathy book cover with picture of Terri Givens
  1. A willingness to be vulnerable.
  2. Becoming grounded in who you are.
  3. Opening yourself to the experiences of others.
  4. Practicing empathy.
  5. Taking action.
  6. Creating change and building trust

Know yourself

  • Get to know your emotions so you can identify your feelings and then have more control over your response.
  • Speak from your own experience
  • Have an internal process — collect thoughts, take space and come back to the conversation if possible/desired.
  • Do you need support — get others involved.

Be vulnerable when asking for vulnerability from others

  • Create a brave space, if possible, for you both to share. Have understandings and agreements
  • It’s ok to not be polished or perfect in your delivery. We must make mistakes.
  • Know that you don’t have to understand to accept another’s point of view/experience and let others know that they don’t have to either — and it’s actually not your job to understand and a lot of times you might not ever be able to.
  • Out yourself as someone with similar thought struggles –“wow I used to think like that and someone told me or I realized I was…”
  • Be patient — with self and others and ask for help when needed.

Offer Empathy

  • Recognize intentions, ask about intentions. Recognize and explore your own, too.
  • Humanize the other person. Try to understand intentions, their experiences.
  • Clarify the difference between intentions and impact.
  • Build relationships if applicable. Show interest.
  • Ask curious questions, dig deeper! ‘Tell me more about?’, ‘What did you mean by…?’, ‘Have you heard how that statement can be interpreted as …?
  • Use relationship knowledge and care for said relationship.


  • Use I-statements: ‘When I hear a comment like that, I feel really disappointed…’
  • Recognize dead ends in the conversation and steer clear or return when more potential exists
  • Try and be in it for the long haul, follow a conversation as far as it goes. Come back to it if more is needed.
  • When appropriate use charm/humor in the conversation.

Otherwise here are some useful thoughts to think about

  • Commit to learning, not debating.
  • Comment in order to share information, not to persuade.
  • Avoid blame, speculation, and inflammatory language.
  • Criticize ideas, not individuals.
  • Avoid assumptions about any member of the class or generalizations about social groups.
  • Do not ask individuals to speak for their (perceived) social group.



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Terri Givens

Terri Givens


Founder/CEO Brighter Higher Ed. Political scientist & consultant. Higher Ed, Radical right parties, immigration politics & European politics