Empathy is not looking in a mirror

You’re not being empathic if you’re just looking in a mirror. 

I’m sitting with my husband on a remote Greek Island. The water lapping at our feet, ignoring the occasional waft of sewage in the air that drifts our way. But the food…. I took a bite of my bread. It was fabulous!  “OMG. This is the best bread I’ve ever eaten!!”  My husband took a bite. He raised his eyebrows a bit, gave a nod and said, “Not bad.”  About two beats later it hit me…. We liked the bread the same.

Way in my past I was a bit of a songwriter and performer. Sitting on my back porch with my best friend Beth, I sang her a song I had just written, and she burst into tears. Alarmed at her reaction I stopped, “What is it!?”  She waved her hand up and down in front of her face—“Don’t worry,” she took a breath, “this is just what I do. When I feel something, I cry.”

The lesson:

Don’t assume what people are feeling based on your own experience.

How we express ourselves is unique to our personality, some more expressive than others.

A report of yours looks incredibly frustrated—if it were you it would mean you were about to give notice.  But what is it for them? You might ask—on a scale of 1 – 10 how bad is this for you?

A report of yours looks fine, but is contributing less. You could ask the same thing.  But they may not be able to tell you. Gauge their degree of distress relative to their baseline not yours.

Something happens, you shoot up to a 9. STOP. Step back, is this reaction the right size for the event?

Victor Frankl wrote—human beings are different because we can separate the stimulus and response.

What do you need to do to create that space for yourself?

I heard a great expression once: “Psychological CPR = Check. Pause. Reflect. Try it.”

How can you create an environment that will allow those that work for you to do the same?

As one of my favorite CEOs said, “I walk around here like a F-ing Zen master, then I go home and tear up shopping bags with my teeth”.