Challenges Catalog

Empathy Circle Facilitator Challenges Catalog

Welcome. Here is a list of typical challenges you may encounter as an Empathy Circle Facilitator. The list is sorted by the roles of the Empathy Circle such as, Active Listener, Speaker, Silent Listener, Facilitator, Other, Etc.

This catalog is a work in progress. You can click on the number before each Challenge to find more information about it. There is a shared google doc for each Challenge where you can add your own experience. We will also be developing a process where you will be able add and develop more challenges that are not yet included in this catalog.


Sample Challenges Project: Create 3 Standard and Core Sample Empathy Circle Facilitator Challenges. These are to be used in the training as standardized possible challenge in Session 3 and 4. 

Challenges Catalog

Click on each number below to learn more

 General Challenges
    022 Silent Listener interrups the process 

025 Participant objects to the process 

050 Listener is Not Reflecting Empathically 

Active Listener

050   Listener is Not Reflecting Empathically 

001 Active Listener leaving out a key portion of what the speaker said.

504 Active Listener is going off track and/or misunderstanding the speaker?

010 Active Listener reflecting back a lot more than the speaker actually said.

051 Active Listener occasionally gives suggestions or advice to the speaker.

030 Active Listener feels anxious because they want to do the reflection and process right.

006 Active Listener substituting their own thinking or info for the speaker’s.

007 Active Listener partially or fully reversing what the speaker has said.

008 Active Listener commenting on what the speaker said- agreeing or disagreeing.

009 Active Listener commenting on speaker - judging the speaker in some way (pos/neg).

011 Active Listener asking a question of the speaker.

012 Active Listener unable to ask the speaker to pause for reflection.

013 Active Listener Reflections are much longer than the original.


014 Speaker not pausing for reflection.

015 Speaker not stopping at time limit (or shortly thereafter).

016 Speaker is so scattered they are hard to follow.

017 Speaker never acknowledges being heard even when reflection is accurate.

018 Speaker choosing the previous speaker to be the listener.

019 Speaker using their turn to address what was previously said, giving advice, etc.

043 Speaker saying complicated concepts that are hard to follow for the listener.

Silent Listener

020 Silent Listener holding up signs.

021 Silent Listener stretching in the background.

022 Silent Listener interrupting the process 

023 Silent Listener turns off their camera.

024 Silent Listener is drinking a hot beverage, leaves the room/screen or using their phone.


025 Participant objecting to the process.

003 Participant is making distracting movements in the backgrounds, or writing in the chat.

004 Participant wants something more or different than the Facilitator can give.

002 Participant tells the facilitator they want a deeper and more intimate experience than they are having 

026 Participant wants to ask a question.

027 Participant wants a natural flow of conversation.

028 Participant doesn't like being told when I can speak and for how long.

029 Participant says we are parroting what the speaker is saying. "I want to talk about what Steve said."

048 Participants turn off their cameras in the Empathy Circle for various reasons.

044 A participant says they only want to watch and not take part in the Empathy Circle.

045 A participant enters a zoom call and does not turn on their video or audio.


505 As a facilitator, how do I remember to do all the things like keep time, track turns, Etc.?

005 Facilitator wants to organize an Empathy Café (online or in-person) with 20 people. "I am the only Empathy Circle Facilitator. How would I do that?" 

031 Facilitator feel anxious. There are lots of things to keep track of.

032 Facilitator forgetting to start the timer.

033 Facilitator losing track of who has been a Active Listener so far in a round.

034 Facilitator permitting an Active Listener a 2nd turn before everyone else has had a turn.

035 Facilitator offering guidance by saying what not to do, rather then what to do.

036 Facilitator attempts to make the process go perfectly by intervening a lot.

Technical Issues

037 Technical Issues How to continue to be inclusive when a participant has a poor internet connection.

040 Technical Issues Slow connection, connection cuts out all the time and how to deal with that?

038 Technical Issues Power Outages.

039 Technical Issues Monitoring Chat Function - using private chat or to everyone.

041 Technical Issues Muting participants who are not active speakers?


042 How do I facilitate Circles outside of class? How do you do it with people I don't know and I don't want to tell them this is an empathy circle?

Others to Sort

046 The Speaker selects their Active Listener, but they  want to  “pass” on being the Active Listener.



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