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Lidewij Niezink

Contact me: Lidewij@gmail.com

Suddenly there breaks forth the evidence that yonder ... life is being lived: ... Another private world shows through, through the fabric of my own, and for a moment I live in it... To be sure, the least recovery of attention persuades me that this other who invades me is made only of my own substance: How could I conceive, precisely as his, his colors, his pain, his world, except as in accordance with the colors I see, the pains I have had, the world wherein I live? But at least my private world has ceased to be mine only; it is now the instrument which another plays.
(Merleau-Ponty, 1964=1968, p. 11)*

Since the start of this century I work on empathy. First through study and research (PhD), then through travel and contemplation, and currently through practice: educating, writing, designing curricula and tools, counseling and training. My education and research have been in social psychology but empathy is approached from many scientific disciplines and I try to keep up with- and interconnect these different perspectives. I focus on psychology, philosophy, biology, social neuroscience, anthropology and arts. 

My PhD thesis was in social psychology at the University of Groningen in The Netherlands: Considering Others in Need; on Altruism, Empathy and Perspective taking. It centered on the differences between- and effects of related concepts such as empathy, sympathy, compassion and tenderness. I also looked at the effects of perspective taking when confronted to the suffering of others, the role of empathy and reciprocity in helping family versus friends and the measurement of state empathy within psychology. Toward the end of my PhD project, I started to explore the difference between altruism as an inclination versus altruism as a choice. This lead to the proposal of the Altruistic Choice Model (ACM). The ACM was my first move towards a method which helps finding ways to cultivate beneficial forms of empathy. With my students in Applied Psychology at the Hanze University of Applied Sciences, I work to develop an applied empathy toolbox.

As an Entrepreneur, researcher and world traveler, I need diversity and innovation. As of November 2014 I have become the Director of Research at the International Center for Compassionate Organizations in Louisville Kentucky. 
Our goal is to bridge the gap between science and practice and bring effective empathy and compassion programs to organizations through a nonpolitical, evidence-based, and public health approach. Together with Edwin Rutsch of the Center for Building a Culture of Empathy and Compassion I developed an evidence based tool to practice different stages of the empathic skill set: Empathy Circles. These Circles are meant to explore and practice our empathic skills. Self-empathy, mirrored (emotional) empathy, reflective empathy, imaginative empathy (perspective taking) and empathic arising/action are all part of the circle process.

projects lead me to work with a wide variety of people: innovation consultants, R&D departments, educators, firefighters, children with adaptation problems, engineers, entrepreneurs and healthcare professionals. I also run the Empathy and Charter for Compassion groups on LinkedIn and would like to welcome you to join us there.

That seems quite enough about me! If you would like to know more, have a look around these pages or contact me.

*Merleau-Ponty, M. (1964). The philosopher and his shadow. In M. Merleau-Ponty (Ed.), Signs (pp. 159–191). Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press. (Original work published 1960)