I sometimes wonder if a day goes by that we don’t encounter someone who is hurting (and in this context, I’ll talk about emotional hurt). And we’ll never really know because our encounters are so varied, work and life and the public which we will never know the depth or breathe of hurt we’re stumbling upon.
But in this episode, I want to explore when we do know. When we see the signs, the cues, the facial expressions—which are often fleeting. And the reaction and actions we take to connect.
Because human connection is something we all want, and we all need. If you’re looking to make a difference in your company, in your circle, in the universe, you want to honor this connection.
And one of the most important ways we connect with others, establishing trust, rapport, understanding is through listening. Not just to the words, but what we see.
I received a Christmas gift from a beautiful friend, it’s Brene Brown’s book, Atlas of the Heart. If you’re interested in strengthening your emotional intelligence for work or life, this is an encyclopedia of insight.
A few of us have started a book club to deepen our knowledge of her work. For months we’ve been sharing insights, reactions, and the stories of our lives. How these emotions have affected us not just in the workplace, which they definitely do, but also as human beings. Its been so splendidly illuminating and also vulnerable.
Into the language of our emotions, she dives. And she dives deep. Giving words to the sensations that we experience yet have a hard time describing.
And back to this week’s topic, our last book club. It was in Chapter 7. She described the differences between compassion, pity, sympathy, empathy. Finally, a way that compared and contrasted these emotions, so they made sense. And also, which bring us closer together, and those that don’t.
What I found very fascinating, because I teach empathy in many of my classes, was what she wrote about empathy misses. Eight of them. When I saw this list I was full of awe. She had captured this comprehensive list, the areas that I hear---the pitfalls we’ve probably all fallen into. Unwittingly, and then also we affect the connection. The disconnect.
Brene defines it this way, Empathy, the most powerful tool of compassion, is an emotional skill set that allows us to understand what someone is experiencing and to reflect back that understanding.
Because when you listen to others, when you listen to yourself—see how many of these you can spot.
If you find yourself falling into these common traps, scurry out as soon as you can. Empathize with focus and purpose. Identify the emotion. Label it to the best of your knowledge. Then add the “why.”
Be there for those that are hurting. Be present with their pain. When you do this, you deepen trust and your connections to others. And isn’t that what we all want? Because while we don't know so many times when others around us are in pain, there are times that we do know. Let's not miss those opportunities to connect.
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