EMPATHIC INTERPERSONAL COMMUNICATION IN EMOTIONALLY CHARGED DIALOGUES
The quality of life in educational environments is dependent upon positive interactions and good relationships between all parties. Communication based on mutual respect, trust and a sense of belonging and significance (Cooper, 2010) promotes the development and well-being of both students and teachers (Higgins, 2010). Moreover, instances of dispute or conflict, which are as inevitable in the classroom as they are in any other social setting, are more easily solved under conditions of significant interaction.
Empathy toward students, colleagues or parents can help teachers maintain proper relationships in the educational setting. Empathetic behavior, as a way of being with another person, enables one to see the world from the perspective of the other as well as to identify and understand the other’s state and emotions (Miller & Wallis, 2011). As teachers are able to take an empathetic stance, empathy becomes a powerful force for change and growth (Rogers, 1975).
The aim of the current study is to identify and conceptualize patterns of empathetic interpersonal communication skills in emotionally charged dialogues.
The study was conducted through a discourse analysis of videotaped simulations. The participants were teachers and teacher education students at a leading Israeli teaching college. The simulation is a clinical learning method, promoting interpersonal communication skills in complex and conflict situations in education. It is conducted in a secure learning environment, with the participation of professional actors who play the role of the conflictual other. Prior to the session, the participants sign an agreement committing to maintain rules of ethics and confidentiality.
Procedure and analysis: Six short-videotaped simulations, which dealt with a variety of scenarios such as parent-teacher relationships, staff connections and school management interactions, were watched and analyzed. Each simulation (5-7 minutes) was viewed four times. A dialogue analysis method was conducted, which included identifying patterns of empathetic discourse, tightening the categories, incorporating relevant examples and validating the model. Each pattern was coded as appeared (1) or did not appear (0) in discourse.
A qualitative analysis of the discourse evolved into a model of empathetic communication patterns. The model distinguishes between two core patterns: verbal and non-verbal. The verbal communication patterns refer to oral content that indicates honest attempts of listening and collaborating while looking for a turning point. The discourse analysis of the simulations encounters pointed to 17 sub-categories of verbal empathetic patterns, for example acknowledging the other’s perspectives of the matter, understanding oneself difficulties, softening the conflict by asking questions and sharing collaborative expressions. The non-verbal patterns refer to body language, and way of speaking. In this manner, the discourse analysis revealed six sub-categories. Successful encounters are characterized with reaching a turning point and making progress by taking a step towards a positive change.
The presentation will discuss the theoretical contribution of the model and its practical applications for teachers and teacher education programs