4 Steps to Taking Your Empathy to the Next Level

Download MP3 | 1:21:23

Josh interviews Family Therapist Julie Dodson to discuss the “Showing Understanding Skill” technique she’s been trained in. Pro-life advocates can use this skill to grow in their empathy and navigate conversations better, especially the ones that turn to particularly emotional aspects of the abortion debate.

The four steps are:
1: Listen in a way that shows strong interest.
2: Become the other person.
3: Name thoughts, feelings, concerns/meanings, and desires.
4: Accept and make corrections graciously.

Editors note: Apologies for the wonky audio on this one. Zoom did a software update and switched off the “record separate audio channels” feature, mashing all of our audio into one. So things sound kind of goofy anytime we’re talking at the same time. Now we check that feature before every recording session to make sure that doesn’t happen again!

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After the recording session Julie sent a few additional notes for clarity, which we’re including below unedited:

After reflecting on time recording the podcast, I wanted to add some information and clarifications. First, in discussing anger, we see that there is both truth-based anger and lie-based anger. If all anger was bad or if it was inherently sinful to be angry, we would not see God feeling or expressing anger. There is a righteous anger against injustice, human trafficking, or the killing of the innocent unborn, for examples. But for most of us, our anger, bitterness, unforgiveness, etc. against self, others, or God that is held for long periods of time is usually lie-based anger. Lie-based anger is held, not because we want to be angry, but because, deep down, we believe that it is serving a good or just purpose for us. We have heard many reasons such as the following:
– “My anger protects me.”
– “My anger holds myself or someone else accountable.”
– “My anger proves ____ is not ok.”
– “My anger keeps me from doing that again.”
We may cognitively be aware that the anger is not actually helping us, but when life gets hard or when we are in crisis-mode, we feel, react, and make decisions, not based on what we know to be true, but what FEELS true to us, that is, what we actually believe on a deeper level.

*This perspective is informed by my work as a TPM mentor. You can find more information about TPM at https://www.transformationprayer.org/preparing-journey-introduction/ and about the TPM perspective about anger at https://www.transformationprayer.org/anger-in-the-ministry-session/. For additional “geeking out” about God and anger, see https://bibleproject.com/podcast/gods-hot-nose/.

Second, we discussed how crisis reveals belief system and worldview. What I am NOT saying is that it is wrong to care for others or that it is wrong to have concern for the health or safety of those around us. I mean that crisis reveals where we put our trust or ultimate hope. For example, if my ultimate hope is in the planet, any piece of trash or oil spill or person that refuses to recycle may be interpreted as assault on my source of hope. If my hope is in the expectations of my future, then anything that might get in the way of what I want that future to be may also be seen an attack (ex: someone with an unplanned pregnancy). If my ultimate hope is in my health or the health of those I love, anything someone might do that threatens health, even unintentionally, may be seen as an assault. And when people are scared that their hope-source is being threatened, they often react out of anger, self-protection, or protection of others. Again, this is not to say that caring for others is wrong at all. We are called as Christ-followers to love God and others. Our reaction (internal or external), however, may give a clue to where we are placing our ultimate hope and trust.

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Related Links:

The “Experience Diagram” Julie references:
https://bit.ly/3iIDtE7

Here’s the sermon audio Josh referenced on the topic of honor – “A Community of Honor in a Culture of Contempt” from Bridgetown Church:
https://bit.ly/30R9Kmp

National Institute of Relationship Enhancement:
https://nire.org

Jule Dodson’s Instagram:
https://www.instagram.com/julie.b.dodson

You can email Julie at:
julie.b.dodson@gmail.com

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Julie Dodson, MA, LMFT, is a patient advocate for Avenues for Women, a medical pregnancy resource center serving abortion-minded women and families in Frankfort, KY. She was trained in Relationship Enhancement © through her work with IDEALS of Kentucky, a non-profit counseling agency. This training and experience has shaped her style of deep empathy to connect with people from a *wide range of backgrounds and beliefs. In addition to her work with Avenues for Women, she works as a wellness coach for CAREWorks of Kentucky, which provides care and coaching in corporate settings. She is also the Director of Student Ministry with her local church.
Julie holds a BA in Specialized Ministries from Mid-America Christian University (Oklahoma City, OK) and a Masters in Mental Health Counseling from Asbury Theological Seminary (Wilmore, KY). She is licensed in Kentucky as a Marriage and Family Therapist and is a certified Relationship Enhancement Program presenter. She is also certified in Child-Centered Play Therapy and Filial Therapy.
Julie lives in Frankfort, KY, with Andrew, her husband of 10 years, and their dog, Carter (AKA “Dog Dog”). They are expecting their first child, a miracle with quite a story, in January, 2021.

President

Josh Brahm is the President of Equal Rights Institute, an organization that trains pro-life advocates to think clearly, reason honestly and argue persuasively.

Josh uses speaking, writing and campus outreach to emphasize practical dialogue tips, pro-life philosophy, and relational apologetics.

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