March 16, 2018

Recently, I was having lunch with a client at Renaud’s, a local French cafe with the best croissants in Santa Barbara. At the next table a young teen was holding ​her baby sister. Suddenly, the baby​ bumped a plate, which fell and shattered on the ​tile floor so loudly that everyone in the cafe looked. ​From the cashier line, the girls' mother looked back in horror, reacting in anger and embarrassment.

"Oh god​!" she said ​in the direction of ​her teen daughter. In her words, I could hear implied judgment​ and the force of her own humiliation. ​Then, she look​ed towards the counter for help, ​upset about the unwanted attention and being at cause for the broken plate.

I glanced at the teen. She ​held her head down as far as it could go in obvious shame and embarrassment. ​The baby, meanwhile, was fine with all of this​, smiling and happy--completely unaware of the turmoil it had caused.

Was there anything I could do to make this young girl a little happier? While the waiter was helping to relieve the mom’s tension, I wanted to bring relief to the teen. So I offered her eye contact. ​I said to her: ​“That must have felt so shocking for you when the plate fell and broke.”

Yes it did​,” ​she said, with a small relieved smile​, returning my eye contact. ​In that instant, she took a breath​ and I could see her whole body​ relax. ​

Wow, that felt so nice to bring her a little ease, and it was so easy to do. Someone should teach this! 🙂

I like that it happened in a croissant shop too. I recently heard an empathy expert say that life is like a croissant. ​To make croissants you alternate many layers of dough and butter. The dough is all of our direct experiences of life, and empathy - people reflecting these experiences to us compassionately - is the butter. Yes, more butter please!

Recipe for an Daily Empathy​ Croissant: 1) Roll out life. 2) Add empathy. 3) Chill. Repeat ​​5x. (More often = better croissant.) Then bake for 10 minutes at 350º F. For an extra treat, drizzle chocolate on top and garnish with fresh strawberries and whipped butter cream ganache. Next day, repeat.

Don't forget to give yourself an empathy croissant. ​Some of the most potent healing comes from empathy ​you can give to yourself. AND, when you're needing empathy, you can't really give anyone else empathy until you've given it to yourself first. So, be generous with your empathy croissants! 

Peace and prosperity,


About the Author Catherine

Catherine Cooley is a mediator and a communication coach. She has worked in environments of extreme conflict including prisons, the court system and local communities teaching what she calls "Breakthrough Conversations." She specializes in helping people foster clear, respectful, warm, cooperative relationships at home and in the workplace.

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