Empathy as a Discursive Practice

One of the features that makes mediation a unique form of conflict intervention is that it offers an opportunity for the parties to develop empathy with each other. This raises some practical communication challenges for the mediator. How does a mediator know a party is seeking, offering or developing empathy with another? How can a mediator help – or hinder – the development and expression of party-to-party empathy?

This program treats empathy as discursive practice --- as a communication phenomenon that is constructed, displayed, and transformed in ongoing interaction. After a brief introduction to the basic value of party-to-party empathy in conflict, the focus of the program will be on markers of shifts in party empathy that can be identified in the course of interaction in a mediation session. Participants will pay special attention to identifying markers of “shifts” in party communication, and also to the nature of communication practices by the mediator that can help – or hinder -- the development and expression of party-to-party empathy. Illustrations will be provided from research, video, and actual transcripts. There will be ample time for questions, discussion and participation.

   

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