Posts tagged Empathy
Are we the same?

Well, no, actually we aren’t.

One of the captivating characteristics of the human experience is that we are all unique, each and every one of us. And as we look to find common ground with those around us, keeping this in mind can really take the pressure off.

No longer do we have to keep hunting for our perfect match — relationally, politically, professionally, etc. — because there’s a better, more productive pursuit.

How about — How are we the same?

We’re better off letting go of the illusive mirage that someone, anyone is always going to agree with us. If it’s truly progress we’re after, finding a place to stand together — regardless of how much separates us — is an awfully good place to start.

Good intentions aren't everything

Take for instance our friend - the consultant - who pitches a small business owner on a small budget proposal because he intends to be respectful and work inside of what he imagines are the owner’s financial means. Our consultant friend means so well. Which is why it makes it all the more surprising for him if the owner decides to go with the much more expensive pitch. Yet it happens all the time.

When our consultant friend thought he was thinking of the owner, he was actually thinking for the owner. He assumed that the owner would care the most about price, but it turns out the owner probably cared about other priorities more. That’s why he want with the pricier pitch.

Our friend forgot empathy.

Intent matters; and positive intent makes a powerful difference. There’s still more to the picture. Empathy would’ve helped our friend take the time to walk in the owner’s shoes, investigate the owner’s hopes and dreams for the business with curiosity, and then seek to see how he might serve his new client in the midst of that. It would’ve changed his whole direction.

Empathy helps us find a place to stand together. Once there, our consultant friend would see much better the pitch that matches his client’s hopes, fears, and dreams.

Begin with empathy. Then commit to the work of showing up each day to build a match.

We’re all unique

Maybe this appears obvious. Obvious, though, doesn’t mean top of mind.

Layer day-to-day life in and it can become quite easy for us to treat those we interact with as if they believe, feel, decide, and act like us.

In fact, they do not. (Yes, even those we care about most.)

It’s possible, even, that they feel quite different and even opposite of us.

Creating meaningful connections begins only when we treat each other as if we all have the ability to live equally unique and full lives.

Photo by Nick Karvounis on Unsplash

Absolute truth exists — gravity for example. Even if we believe that gravity isn’t real with every fiber of our being, each time we jump gravity will be there to bring us back down to earth.

Absolute truth is convenient. It’s quite nice to not have to question when and where gravity is going to show up. We can rely on the confidence that gravity is always going to be there. We appreciate this convenience. We prefer it, I think. And that’s not bad; it merely is. The important piece is to be mindful of this preference.

This preference leads us into a bias toward too quickly categorizing patterns we notice as absolute truth. As a result there is a certain grouping of absolutes we hold onto in our lives that are actually only sometimes true, perhaps even most times true, yet not always. (It’s important to also note that these ‘patterns’ could also never be true. Mirages are real.)

These false absolute hide out all over our life. We hold onto them — cling to them even long after we rationally should — because they afford us a certain level of convenience and security that we would rather not give away. Sadly, these lead us to do all kinds of actions that, in the end, are against our best interest.

Create boundaries far too small.

Create boundaries far too large.

Exclude unnecessarily.

Initiate conflict over peaceful discourse.

Dishonoring of humanity — whether it’s dishonor toward ourselves, or others.

The biggest disservice though may be the devaluing of the true absolutes that, in the end, are of far greater value.

Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash
Something worth trading for

In a trade, both parties believe they hold something of value. A trade works because they also believe that what they have is worth trading for the thing they want — they’re getting a bargain.

Marketing what we have on offer is essentially the same thing.

Let’s leave out the “Sorry it’s expensive”, or the “I know, it’s not perfect” when we’re sharing our offer. Instead, we can simply say “Want to trade?”.

They might say yes. And even if they don’t, even if they say no, we’ve learned more about reality than our old way of pre-qualifying our ask because here’s the catch — now we can ask for feedback.

The no might not be what we think it is. And now we have a path to creating something worth trading for.

p.s. Asking for feedback works with a ‘yes’ too.

Photo by Dan Freeman on Unsplash
Who are we listening to?

There’s a litany of options when it comes to choosing the products we create, the problems we solve, and the experiences we serve.

Listening to our gut.

Listening to our team.

Listening to our competitors.

Listening to our investors.

Listening to the media.

Listening to the doubters.

Listening to the negative reviews.

On and on it goes. Each of which can have truthful, even beneficial, perspective to contribute. The trouble is filtering out those kernels of truth from all the noise, bias, and differing intent.

There’s another voice; one that speaks with a greater clarity when it comes to the work that we’re doing — our customers. Those we’re seeking to serve. The people like us.

As change makers, our daily dedication is to find their voices. And when we do, listen with care.

Photo by Johan Mouchet on Unsplash

We’d look weird at any company who claimed this. So why would we operate this way?

All the time we spend focused on our competition, what they’re doing, and building new features faster than them could be time we’re spending focused on understanding our customers.

The problems they see, and more importantly, the ones they feel.

What they believe about the world and how it works.

Their hopes. Their dreams.

And how we can help them get there.

This, more than any competitive one-upmanship is the way toward making meaningful change.

Photo by Banter Snaps on Unsplash
Two kinds of giving
  1. Giving of resources
  2. Giving of self

The industrial economy taught us that it’s possible to create a thriving society on the backs of business models that build their foundation entirely around the first kind of giving, mostly ignoring the second.

The connection economy we find ourselves in today is teaching us (if we pay close attention) that humans hope for something more from their relationships than mere win-win transactions (yes, even their business relationships).

If we’re looking to create real, meaningful connections, we’ll need to start by committing to the emotional labor, empathy, vulnerability, and care that reflects giving of the second kind.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
No one is requiring you to be a good client

But you’ll end up paying less if you are.

Not just financially — also with your time, energy, resources, and trust.

Said another way — it’s more expensive in the long-run to insist on your vendors catering to your personality and preferences than it is to work to empathize with them.

It’s worth it.

For anyone curious, here’s a great place to start.

Photo by Chris Barbalis on Unsplash