Empathy – seems to be the buzz word these days. Notably, in management – empathy for your customers, for your business partners, for your team. And if that’s not enough, three people who I know well and spend quite a bit of time with have Empathy as their top gallup strength. Now, I believe I am smart enough to know that fighting the battle about ‘Empathy – not a big deal’ is not going to get me anywhere. On a serious note, I realized I would need to do something about empathy to be a better human being. Period.
On my search to understand empathy I looked everywhere but I was like a blind person in a dark room – there was no chance of seeing the light. But then the benevolent universe provided, and my blind eyes spotted a blog (maybe it was in braille) which had a sweet story that gave me a little insight into Empathy.
“A first-time teacher goes to her first class at a university. The students are all bored, and she is feeling very nervous. She asks the students to write on a piece of paper – how are they feeling? Their responses include -confused, bored, mindless.Then she asks the students to take another piece of paper and write – how do they think she is feeling?”
The very act of asking the question changed the energy in the room. There was a marked changed in the students – they were attentive.
This question – how do you think the other person is feeling right now? It did the trick for me. All the talk about stepping into their shoes didn’t make much sense but trying to understand how the other person is feeling – CLICKED. Thank you, Universe. I seem to have a mental blocking about putting myself in somebody’s shoes because in my mind it is not possible at all – but I can try and understand how they are feeling.
Let’s take the next step on this journey where I currently exist. Practice. I have to remember to practice this during my day to day interactions with other people. And whenever my fleeting mind decides to retain this question I have noticed a change in the way I behave – my habit patterns are starting to shift a little.
We, humans, are intellectual creatures – knowing how things work and asking why is quite central to our human condition, although the usefulness of this trait is up for doubt. My enquiring mind went on a quest to understand the question more deeply. The answer was very insightful – the question makes me think of somebody other than me. And even if for a second somebody else becomes the star of the movie of my life – I take a step closer to being a better version of myself. Wait! My line of inquiry hasn’t finished. It is essential for us to think of others because there is no I and there is no them, there is only us. We are all drops of the same ocean. Empathy, here I come!