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.


Challenges Catalog

Click on the numbers to see more

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

  1. 022 -- Silent Listener interrupting the process

    1. by wanting to add their ideas, thoughts or opinions

    2. Agrees with someone

    3. Is inspired to comment on what some else says.

  1. 025 -- Participant objecting to the process.

      1. A Participants Objects to the process - wants the group to talk "normal" without empathic listen

  2. 050 -- Listener is Not Reflecting Empathically

      1. Asking a question

      2. Giving advice

      3. Telling your own story.

      4. etc.

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

  • by wanting to add their ideas, thoughts or opinions

  • by demanding a turn to speak.

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 in the circle.

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 just 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: If I organize an Empathy Café (online or in-person) with 20 people and I am the only Empathy Circle Facilitator, how should 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 -- Other: How to facilitate Circles Outside of class?/ how do you do it with people who don't know, and you 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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