The 3E's - Empathy, Education, & Empowerment


Amelia Gentile-Mathew, 2021

The 3Es is a shorthand way of indicating three pillars of compassionate communication - 
Empathy, Education, and Empowerment. Using a balance of these in your responses can help you cultivate appropriate, concise, and authentic support that lets your students feel heard and supported.   

Using the 3E's to guide your communication with students can help to quickly and concisely convey validation, offer valuable and pertinent information, and indicate what next steps might be, centering the empowerment and decision-making of the student.   


What: Lets someone know that you understand the emotion that they are expressing. Showing empathy does not mean you experience it the same way, but, rather, that you can understand why they are attaching this specific emotion to their story or experience.   

Why: Extending interpersonal validation builds trust and shows that you are listening for understanding.  

When: Student discloses difficult experience or adversity, a student is seeking support, a student expresses frustration with a challenge or barrier, a student is seeking mentorship, and more!   

How: “It sounds like you’re handling a lot right now on your own.” “I’m glad you told me; family transitions can be really difficult.” “I’m so sorry to hear that happened to you.”   


What:  Employing active listening to glean what the student is trying to communicate- this means considering not only the words they're saying, but also how they say it and what they emphasize as most important. Then, offering any pertinent information that may be helpful.  

Why:  We may often know about relevant community resources, or the ins-and-outs of university support services that can help students achieve academic milestones, even in the face of adversity.   

When: Students require accommodations, could benefit from validation, can complete assignments or attend class via a different modality, qualify for state, community, or institutional benefits, and more!   

How:“A lot of students choose to apply for an extension, I’m happy to talk through what that might look like for you.” "You’re handling a really tough situation, so it makes a lot of sense to reach out for support.” "I'm curious whether you are in touch with Disability Service...I ask because there are folks in the office we can connect with who can support on this across all of your courses and departments."  


What: Helps someone see their successes so far, contextualizes their current difficulties, and lets them know that there is help and support available to them in their decision making processes.   

Why: The impacts of trauma and subsequent barriers can be disempowering, so centering the needs and agency of the student is critical. Offer support while encouraging them to utilize their own best judgement and discernment towards constructing creative solutions.  

When: Student needs to make a change of plans, student asks for advice, student is weighing pros and cons of a decision, student is in a period of personal discernment, and more!   

How: “It takes a lot of courage to change our plans, and I'd be happy to hear what you're thinking after speaking with advising.” "I appreciate you sharing with me; do you have a sense of the timeline that might work for you to get caught up on your assignments?” 



Gentile-Mathew, A. (2021). Teaching Tools: Trauma-Informed Pedagogies & Healing Centered Engagement. Inclusive Teaching Practices, University of Denver Office of Teaching & Learning.