Hello. My name is Kate Kenfield. I speak and write about empathy and self-care.
I'm originally from California, but now you’ll find me based in Melbourne, Australia. I moved here for my Masters in Public Health, but I stayed for the coffee, the marsupials, and the universal healthcare. I tend to not stay put for too long - I frequently travel to the U.S. for speaking engagements and workshops.
I did my undergrad at Berkeley in cultural anthropology, then went on to study public health. Both of these disciplines look at how culture and society shape our behaviors, health, and wellbeing.
I learned a great deal about public speaking from my mom. I spent much of my childhood sitting in the back of classrooms and conferences where she would present. From an early age, I got to observe a skill that most people don't learn until much later in life.
Traveling the world, speaking at events, and working with people around their feelings has taught me this: most people struggle to talk about the things that matter most - feelings, intimacy, and what they need most from those they love. If you find these things hard, you are so not alone.
What I teach
I spent many years of my career teaching sex education to adults. This taught me a great deal about how most of us get very little formal education about how to form relationships. Instead, we're left learning things through trial-and-error, which is a terrible way to learn about the things that are central and crucial to our connections with the people we love.
Over the course of my life, I’ve learned that there are so many feelings that we aren’t taught how to navigate. Romantic and platonic relationships are filled with feelings that we struggle to articulate. This communication gap can leave us lost and in pain. It’s not helped by the fact that most of us are taught that in response to others’ pain, we should give advice and try to "fix" them.
I teach people how to talk about feelings - with minimal awkwardness and maximal ease. When we get the language to describe our feelings, it can make everything easier. Research suggests that emotional intelligence, emotional regulation, and empathy all improve when our ability to name our feelings gets better. So I made a deck of cards to help people find the words to describe their feelings (and others’ feelings) more easily.
I spend most of my days training healthcare professionals, educators, students, and other stressed out people how to increase their empathy without out burning out in the process. I also teach university students about healthy relationships and consent and how these things are grounded in empathy.
What most people need is quality listening and empathy in order to experience connection. A large part of my work is teaching people how to practice empathy and how to unlearn the advice-giving our culture tells us we should be doing. I created the Tea & Empathy cards and trainings specifically to teach these skills.
My personal experiences have greatly shaped why I do this work.
I am a chronic migraineur, which means I get at least 15 migraines a month without medical intervention. I get far fewer than that now that I've learned to manage them, but there were several years where I got them every day. My experience with chronic pain has greatly informed my teaching. It’s taught me firsthand about our fix-it culture, about how to practice devotional self-care, and about how to find joy even in the midst of pain.
I've learned that we have feelings, not because we’re broken, but because we’re alive and paying attention. Emotions traditionally classified as "negative" are often a natural, healthy response to loss and distress. It's often the inability of those around us to hold space for those feelings that makes them particularly hard to bear. If we can learn to listen. empathize, and not rush to fix each other's feelings, we can experience more of the connection that most of us are craving.
My hope for the world is this: More literacy around our feelings. More empathy. Less confusion, loneliness, and shame.
Working towards that hope means I’ve spent the last ten years teaching hundreds of workshops and giving talks on how to build these skills.
Here are some examples of what my work has looked like recently.
I ran multiple Tea & Empathy workshops for a group of university educators as a part of a “self-care day” funded by their administration. My workshops were part of the lineup of massage chairs and guided meditation hikes.
I taught a group of law students "How to Keep Your Empathy Without Burning Out." Even before graduating, they were already keenly aware that they needed the skills to prevent burnout and enhance their empathy to better serve their clients.
I guest lectured on Empathy and Leadership at the University of Melbourne to a group of health professionals. We talked about how sustainable empathy requires sustainable self-care, which is so important for healthcare providers with their sky-high burnout rates.
I facilitated a Tea & Empathy workshop to a group of students who support survivors of sexual assault on their campus. It was inspiring to watch them support each other, receive empathy, and upgrade their listening skills all at the same time.
I taught a sexual health workshop to a group of students at Rollins College, which is where Mister Rogers went to university. He is one of my kindness heroes and I like to think he’d approve of my teaching people how to be kind, considerate partners.
If you’d like to stay in touch, to learn about empathy, and to sharpen your interpersonal communication skills, you can follow me on Instagram and Twitter. If you work for an organization that’s interested in hiring me for an event, you can email me at email@example.com.
Want to start learning now? Here are a few of my most popular pieces.
The Potato Metaphor for Emotional Labor
What’s Missing from the Empathy Conversation
5 Self-Care Strategies that Aren’t F**king Mani-Pedis