Irony is when we judge others as lacking empathy

A common phenomena I see among co-founders I coach is this:

  1. Founder A does something she believes Founder B should appreciate.
  2. Those are not things B actually appreciates, but B says “thanks” out of politeness.
  3. A thinks she’s done something of significant worth to B and expects a reciprocal behavior from B born out of B’s appreciation for A.
  4. B has no awareness of the expectation.
  5. A never receives the reciprocal expression.

Imagine both people doing this — thinking it’s “for” each other
While neither are feeling their needs genuinely fulfilled.

This relationship may be a ticking time bomb.
It is unlikely for people to stay in relationship
When they don’t feel appreciated.

Physicist Richard Feynman once said,
“Paradox is only a conflict between
Reality
vs
Our feeling of what reality ought to be.”​​

Tension is a conflict between​
What we have.
vs
What we need, value, or expect

Let us notice the remarkable similarity between the two.

We can either judge tension as “bad,”
So as to frame it as a “problem.”
or
We can let it evoke our curiosity and wonder
So as to frame it as a “paradox.”

The choice can be ours.

Any time we have the urge to say “I disagree,”
It’s worth asking ourselves “What purpose am I hoping to fulfill?”

If the purpose of expressing disagreement is…

  1. To express disagreement, then spending our energy to express disagreement would likely be energy well-spent.
  2. To prevent something “bad” from happening, the energy may be better spent expressing our fear or concern of the “bad” thing.
  3. To ask the other person to do something, the energy may be better spent making a request to the other person.

Let’s say we have goal A.

During our pursuit of goal A,
Let’s say we encounter B.

If we desire to focus solely on A, and
B demands our attention,
B will be perceived as mere obstacle.

If we focus solely on being blocked from achieving our goal,
It can naturally lead to frustration & anxiety.

Yet, if we can shift our perspective,
So as to fully attend to B,
Enough to respect and listen to it,
B just might turn out
To be the proverbial rose
Worth smelling.

Sometimes, other people recognize our strengths and communicate it to us.

Yet, no matter how sincere their communication,
If it’s in regards to an ability we take for granted—
Perhaps even proactively trivialize—
Their sincerity can be perceived as mere flattery or politeness.
This makes it difficult for us to empathize with their sincerity.
Thus, making it difficult for us to discover our own strengths.

People expect leaders to be super human.
Except, we’re human beings like everyone else.
The kind that needs support.
Except, the kind of support we need is often very hard to come by.

This week is suicide prevention week.
In commemoration of the week,
I’m offering a coaching session to 4 founders,
Free-of-charge.

This is for founders of startups & small businesses
Feeling stuck leading a team of people for whom they feel responsible.
In the session, we’ll design your next steps such that you can make progress.

We’re not going to let this responsibility crush us.
We’re going to leverage it as an opportunity for innovation.

Apply here.
Deadline is 9/16 (Sun).

We change our mind & behavior
When we come to have the freedom of choice
We didn’t previously perceive to have had.

Jean valjean stole,
Because he felt like he didn’t have a choice.
Once he did,
He changed.

When we tell others what not to do,
It can threaten what freedom of choice they perceive to have.
This is why our well-intended admonishments are often rejected.

Even when we tell others what to do,
We often stop at presenting options, not choices.
Options that fail to elicit the feeling of freedom.
Thus, this, too, are often rejected.

What master realizers of empathy do, is
Elicit feelings of freedom
In others and ourselves.

When this happens,
With no intention to change,
Change happens
As a byproduct.

As much as salespeople would like to sell,
Customers have no obligation to buy.

In that sense,
When we want something from others—
Even if we merely want them to listen to us—
One could say that we’re (momentarily) in sales and
They are our customers.

If so, let us notice how we sell,
When we want our children to clean their room,
When we want our employees to do a better job,
When we want our clients or patients to implement our strategy.

Ever walk into a dealership
Only to walk out,
Because you didn’t like the way they sell—
Even if you loved the car?

Unless our customers are unwilling or
Unable to say “No,” to us,
If we sell a particular way,
It is only natural that they won’t buy.

On Sunday, I turned 41. I’ve been told that in “Korean age” I’m 42. There’s something interesting about reflecting on what happened in the past after I have had a 10+year distance from it. In my 20s, I listened to a lot of computer scientists’…

Forty One

When we, as parents, hyper-empathize with our children,
The children’s lives feel like our own.

Similarly,
When we, as founders, hyper-empathize with our companies,
the companies’ lives feel like our own.
So much so that we’re willing to sacrifice our health to keep them alive.

Sacrificing our health to keep our company alive
Can produce behaviors critical to the well-being of our company
In its early stages of development.

But as our company develops—as do our children—
Some of our “sacrificial” behaviors born out of care
Can also stifle its development,
Not to mention fuel our frustration, resentment, and disappointment,
As we can’t help but take everything personally,
When we hyper-empathize.