The Sweet Spot of Tradition, EQ and Empathy.
How many things do you do each day, month, and year that are always the same? A tradition is something we repeat that has meaning to us. Holidays are a given. What about monthly activities – maybe dinner with friends and family, a networking event, something we volunteer for (like being involved in Girl Scouts). You may think this is a stretch … daily traditions: breakfast being the most important meal of the day, an apple a day keeps the doctor away. Think back to what your parents taught you. How many of their routines are now yours? A tradition is something that has meaning and value to us.
When we find new information being presented to us, and it contradicts what we believe to be true we react. Understanding our beliefs and reactions is the foundation for being able to authentically connect with another person.
3 Reactions to New Information:
- Maybe. I might agree or have more questions after I think about it a bit.
- No. That is not possible. I’ve always done it one way and my parents/friends/research is credible. What I do works.
- Yes. I have no doubt this information will make what I do better.
The second and third reactions leave no room for curiosity. By curiosity, I mean an openness to listen and hear – regardless if we personally agree or decide to use the information. Hijacked by our own reaction (even if we have THE best poker face) prevents us from being curious.
Looking at it a different way, we use our traditions to make sense of the world. And when faced with something contrary, we stay curious about what we have or we are closed to it. Staying closed takes effort. A lot of effort (like frowning). The world can become stifling – our beliefs weigh us down and our brain becomes jammed. Being stifled by brain-jam can be remedied actively practicing empathy.
Self awareness is instrumental in getting what we want. If we don’t know what we want, it’s unreasonable to expect anyone else to know what we want. That said, when we think we know what we want, simplifying it to be easy as it can be.
Read on … this article talks about how to start practicing self awareness (and awareness of others) and how to write down – articulate – what your goals are so you know what you want to actively work toward them.
Empathy – A Strong Word by Itself.
Buzzwords are are all the rage, they are the in-thing, and they are filled with possibility. There are creative uses like looking at information in new ways, adding experience to existing ideas, and adapting concepts for technology and economic changes.
Yet buzzwords are a pet peeve of mine. Because they present challenges for business leaders. There are higher unknowns – new concepts are fresh and must be proven to work, many buzzword concepts don’t ever get traction. And, possibility can easily become SOS (shiny-object-syndrome).
There are oodles of buzzwords to describe empathy, yet, no matter how it’s packaged…empathy is what it is and nothing else. Describing empathy different ways may change the meaning and detract from the actual skill of empathy. Recently, my friend and colleague Stephanie Bryan of REAL Parenting reminded me about this video:
Three takeaways from Brene Brown’s Empathy vs Sympathy short:
- Empathy fuels connection
- Sympathy drives disconnection
- 4 qualities of empathy
Empathy connects us to others – without solving a problem or offering a bright-side. We are present with another person. We are taught to support and help those around us. Sometimes help is sitting quietly, noticing, or even silently making eye contact. This skill is independent of other skills and approaches. When empathy is used in combination with other skills, those skills are enhanced.
Emotional Intelligence (EQ) IS NOT Empathy
Soft skills, including accountability, problem solving, listening, leadership, conflict resolution, and social interaction are part of emotional intelligence. Like any technical skill, these can be learned if we naturally do not excel in them. In fact, even when we have many soft-skill inherent strengths there is still space to improve.
Labeling feelings is a big part of emotional intelligence. When we can define something and say it to someone and they understand us we label correctly. Feelings though, come from personal experience. And since we never have the same set of experiences as another, labeling is not enough. The label we give something only has value to our self and the people we interact with if they give that something the same label. Another words – that we agree on the label and what it means.
Personal awareness is another way to describe emotional intelligence. It’s when we are aware of what sets us off, the types of stress that are overwhelming, and even what is so exciting that we lose track of time that we can begin to see more than just ourselves. Because, when we are self aware we also become aware of what makes others separate from us. It’s through this separation we can assess. We can evaluate a situation and know whether we want to be in it (or not). It also means that whatever situation we find ourselves in, we have a high chance to check ourselves and intentionally choose what behavior is best in this moment.
Emotional Intelligence is how we show up for us. Empathy is how we show up with others. It’s our capacity to care without interference. While they are not interchangeable terms, they also are not mutually exclusive. Someone can have little or no self awareness and be strong at empathy.
The self awareness to recognize what emotions we have and what causes them is the beginning of how to get what we want. Really though, our own awareness only gets us so far. It takes understanding the emotions of others and what causes their emotions to connect. When move toward understanding each other on a level deeper than feelings, it becomes possible to work together and get what we want … in a way that supports and gives the other person what they want too.
Steps to Develop Empathy
1. Manage your own emotions (Emotional Intelligence / EQ)
Self awareness plays a big role in every interaction. By knowing, labeling, and understanding ourselves more we know how to really show up in interactions.
2. Practice non-judgement.
Some things we have so ingrained in is that our judgements are hard to spot (like stereotypes). One clue to begin recognizing when we judge is when our internal dialog starts with: That was wrong,” “Poor ____, I saw that coming,” or even “What were they thinking?”
3. Be curious.
True curiosity comes where then is no judgement (which is why this is after non-judgement). If it helps, think about the situation like a 5-year old would. They are trying to learn their world and really figure it out.
4. Listen actively.
Whatever it takes to keep all our attention in the moment matters. Are you hearing every word in the sentence? Are you noticing their body language? A space to feel comfortable sharing is hard to create because if there is a sense of distraction or perception the person will feel judged, there will be no sharing.
The BIGGEST mistake we can make (which is when empathy transforms into something else)…
…is to put a spin on what we are hearing by saying things like:
- There is positive here.
- Look on the bright side.
- That happened to me, here’s what you need to do.
- Oh, I know who you need to talk to.
- I know ____ is hard, here is what to do…
- What can I do to help?
We want to help. We care. Really care. Yet, as soon as something like this leaves our lips, we are no longer empathetic. We are problem solving. Usually it’s out of our uncomfortableness of the situation we switch to problem solving because it’s hard to not be able to help. We want to be useful.
Empathy is not about us. It’s about our connection to others. Stephanie Bryan is a champion of empathy, and I’ve learned a lot from her. She’s helped me clarify the power of empathy.
Get comfortable with the uncomfortable. This all sounds so serious. While it is, we can’t take ourselves or others too seriously. Practice these four steps (1. Manage Your Emotions, 2. Practice Non-judgement, 3. Be Curious, and 4. Listen Actively) every chance you get. You’ll start seeing a different type of connect to each person in your life.
The Intersection: Your Badass Self
When we know our self and what we believe (tradition) AND we are self aware (EQ) AND we practice empathy, we have what it takes to make an impact. That impact directly relates to if we have stepped into our Badass Business Shoes.
Recently, Marilyn Shannon of The Breaking Free Show, had a program on What is a Badass? Take a peek – Marilyn led a conversation that brought several ideas together in a useful conversation: What is a Badass?
Collaborating, working, with, accomplishing goals are all part of being a team at work. Bringing our whole self will make the difference. The difference in preventing a problem, getting the right people together for a project, or even where we want to go in the organization.
It’s common in work environments to ‘go with the flow’ so we don’t tip the boat. We may be faced with:
- being pushed toward ‘appropriate’
- staying silent to fit in
- doing ‘what’s right’ for everyone else
- lack of recognition
It takes courage to wear your Badass Shoes and
- Know your personal values, and stand up for them
- Call people out if information is overlooked or left out
- Recognize the need for some space and stop a conversation (to follow up on later)
- Know your boundaries and when you can say yes and when its better to say no.
- Make a decision and stick to it until new information comes up that might change your mind.
Where’s your plan? That’s THE Starting Point.
We’re talking about your impact here. What are you doing to create the impact you want by taking purposeful action toward your goal while doing your part to get your department to their goals?
Make your own SIMPLE business plan. Put it on a 4×6 card. Not sure what I mean? Watch this:
You’ve heard the stat about success exponentially increasing when things are written down. So do it already! And then look at what you said you were going to do…and do it. Problems will come up, expect no less. Solve them and track your accomplishments.
Filled with fear? Thinking that this is useful…and you’ll do it later?
Getting what we want takes courage. We are worth it. We are at our best when we set ourselves, and others, up for success. Don’t stop now. Don’t wait…
Take the first step. Take action and schedule an Unstuck Quick call.