Empathy realizing by itself is easy.
Realizing empathy, on the other hand, can be difficult.
Sometimes this is difficult due to a bias or a lack awareness.
But that’s not all.
What can also make it difficult is tension.
Tension is a conflict between what we need or expect vs what we perceive to have.
When we experience too much tension, we can become mired in the discomfort or pain of our tension.
In this state, we have no room in our being to realize our empathy.
When two people are experiencing significant tension, without the help of a 3rd-party—not only free of significant tension, but also well-versed in the art of realizing empathy—, it is unlikely the two will be able to realize empathy with each other.
If you’re interested in learning how to manage your tension and realizing your empathy, come train with us at the studio.
Let us not confuse concern with love.
There’s nothing wrong with feeling concern for the people we love. At the same time, concern arises out of fear, not love. Yes, concern can be fueled by care, but care is not love.
It’s worth asking ourselves if desires like “I want my employees to perform better” or “I want my students to be successful,” are born out of fear or love.
The kinds of design that emerge out of repressed and unidentified fear are often unhelpful to others at best and harmful at its worst.
We often say “People don’t change.”
What we mean is people don’t change the way we want them to change.
People change the way they are motivated to change.
One of the quickest ways to feel frustrated is to coerce other people to change based on our own value system.
One of the most effective ways of sustaining that frustration is to rationalize why our own value system should be universal.
I once told my mother, “You’ve lived a life of sacrifice. It’s time you lived for yourself.” She tells me this was a gift: a gift of permission.
As leaders, we often feel pressured to do things for others. It’s our way of being good, caring leaders.
We may also feel that unless we fulfill others’ expectations, we’re not good or good enough.
But what if these pressures and expectations are self-imposed?
Self-imposed notions of “good” or “caring” may be unappreciated—even resented—by others. Thus, “live for yourself” is an invitation, not to be selfish, but to be relieved of the pressure to satisfy false or unrealistic expectations. It is to make room in our relationship for realizing empathy.
We tend to think that people our parents’ age are already mature.
I once coached a CEO in her late 60s.
She’d bring up what her deceased mother did to her decades ago.
She so wanted, but struggled, to empathize with her.
During our sessions, what helped her empathize was to surface new subtleties and nuances in her mother’s situation.
Things that gave her mother’s behaviors new meaning.
As psychologist Lewis Lipsitt says “we mature when what we once assumed to know takes on more subtlety and nuance, thus changing in meaning.”
She was maturing.
Maturation is not about aging.
It’s about making new meaning from our past so as to move forward with fresh eyes.
Sometimes this softens our pain.
Sometimes it lets us weep.
As we mature.
Looking to exchange gifts with your co-founder (or spouse)?
Here’s an idea.
Each day, write down one thing they did—that day or long ago—you genuinely appreciated. (Especially if it’s embarrassing to admit.)
On Christmas day,
People have a need to feel appreciated for what they want to be appreciated in the way they want. Merely being appreciated for what we appreciate in the way we want to show appreciation can leave them unfulfilled.
So end by asking, “What one thing do you wish I’d appreciate about what you do and how do you want me to show it?”
May we design our interactions for fulfillment.
Most of us were trained in the art of problem solving.
Many also assume problem solving to be the quintessential form of help or care.
This assumption and expertise around problem solving as help can serve us well and poorly.
Because sometimes, despite our best intentions, problem solving does not solve the problem, the helpee gets hurt or irritated, and we’re accused of being selfish, lacking empathy, not caring, or not being there for them.
This can leave us confused, drained, or even resentful, which may even lead to our eventual burn-out.
When problem solving makes things worse, we need a way of producing solutions other than problem solving.
Such is the art of realizing empathy.
We experience tension when there’s a conflict between what we need or expect VS what we have.
Design begins when we take personal responsibility for resolving our tension.
Say we expect computers to be more usable, we begin to design only once we take responsibility for resolving this tension.
We don’t always design. Sometimes we blame. Especially when tension accompanies pain.
As professionals engaged in any kind of design, we need to attend to our pain. It’s easier to neglect or to numb them, but pain may signal an untreated wound. A wound that can be irritated unexpectedly, leaving us with such a low threshold for tension that we end up spending too much of our time blaming VS designing.