Tea & Empathy

written by member Elena Sapora

It was a deliciously warm and breezy February afternoon when a small group of us met up at my home to share some Tea & Empathy. Our facilitator, Melanie Lucash, traveled down from Massachusetts for the weekend. Using a framework and tools developed by her colleague, Kate McCombs, Melanie led us in a brief exploration and practice of giving and receiving empathy.

Our time began with some delicious tea and donuts, as everyone gathered in my living room. Melanie introduced herself and had us each introduce ourselves, sharing our pronouns, what brought us to the event, and one thing that delights us. We then continued our conversation by trying to define empathy, including some of the benefits and challenges of incorporating empathy into our relationships. Melanie shared with us a very helpful working definition of empathy, something to the effect of: The state of being nonjudgmentally curious about another person’s emotional experience.

Melanie introduced the Tea & Empathy cards and demonstrated how to use them. The cards are divided equally between challenging emotions and more positive ones. Each card shows one primary emotion and is helpfully framed by three supporting emotion words to clarify the meaning of the primary emotion.

In small groups of 3, we practiced giving and receiving empathy using the Tea & Empathy cards. One by one we would share a brief story of a challenging experience, and the other two members of the small group would take turns guessing at our emotions. First we would say “Were you feeling __________?” and offer one of the challenging emotion cards. Those feelings may include Anger, Resentment, Jealousy, etc, etc. The storyteller would collect these emotion cards and begin to create a map of their experience. Once the challenging emotion cards were finished, we would ask “Would you have liked to have felt _________?” and offer one of the more positive emotion card. These feelings might include Appreciated, Fun, Empowered, etc, etc. The storyteller would add the positive emotion cards to their map for a more complete picture of their experience.

Once everyone had a chance to try out the Tea & Empathy cards, we gathered again to debrief our experience. Some people shared how it felt good to give and to receive empathy using this tool. Others described feeling surprised by the broad range of emotions that were included in their maps. We also discussed challenges and opportunities to incorporating more empathy into our daily lives.

If anyone has questions about this particular workshop, feel free to reach out to Elena.

For more information about Melanie Lucash and her work, go to her website.

For more information about Tea & Empathy, as well as a link to purchase a set of Tea & Empathy cards, go to Kate McCombs’ website.