I experienced a dose of empathy yesterday during a conversation with an integration manager for a corporation who is going through an intense and exciting merger. It was described to me as a David and Goliath scenario. I know people in the David camp and have worked with them over the years and now they are having to adjust to a much larger work scene. There is a lot going on and the life cycle of the project is one year. As I was listening to the background story, I made a shift to become a better listener – to hear more without my own perspective being the driver. It was freeing to be the passenger for the moment and let the fast moving scenery reveal more of the landscape. In this capacity, I could be of greater help to direct this car by providing a road map. And empathy helped me find the right map from a variety of maps that I have handy. I also thought of how this manager had become the captain of a huge ship and had to get his crew in shape to make the voyage.
In Eric Maisel’s book, Making Your Creative Mark- Nine Keys To Achieving Your Artistic Goals”, he has an entire chapter on empathy. “At its heart, it is the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes and fathom what is going on in human interactions”. “Sympathy and compassion have a large feeling component, but empathy is much more about thinking.”
He also asks some great questions:
• What difficulties have you experienced by not understanding where another person is coming from?
• What in you prevents you from empathizing with others?
• How will you get better at empathizing?
And thinking of the situation on the other end of the phone started my visualization process to be able to see my way to making empathy count in our workshops.