The Empathy LieOct 12, 2021
It only works if you’re not selective about when you’re empathy.
Here’s an honest question.
What was your first reaction when you heard about someone who wasn’t all that interested in a COVID-19 vaccine?
Were you angry? Were you confused? Did you unfriend them on Facebook?
Or did you take a breath, step back and say “tell me more about that?”
There isn’’t a day that goes by without some article or study hitting my inbox, sharing the importance of empathy for leadership, management or a better world.
You hear it from friends. We’ve talked about it at length on the radio show. But it’s staggering to see just how simply we abandon our empathy when it’s something we disagree with.
Someone votes for a politician you don’t like. Someone expresses disregard for vaccines. Someone is a Yankees fan. If you’re on social media, you’ve seen how this plays out — finger pointing, labeling and loads of hyperbole. It gets ugly fast, and people start to pile on.
I have a general rule for my communications — “nobody ever yells their way to success.” Yet, by choosing to react rather than respond, that’s exactly what we’re doing.
I’d argue that empathy is most important when we disagree. When we can understand a perspective, an attitude or a position, we can hold better conversations. Those conversations might lead them to change their opinion. They might lead us to do the same thing.
I was in a store not so long ago when I saw this giant wooden sign that read “Think that you might be wrong.” I love this idea — it’s a way to remind myself to ask more questions, develop more understanding and do more research.
Because ultimately, we’re better for understanding.