Empathy: Death is not mentioned here!
Recently I was enjoying a drink on a terrace and I heard two parents talking to each other about their children. One told the other that her daughter had brought a friend home to play together. The other girl said that she wanted to play that someone would die. The mother was very upset: “It is not normal that a child wants to play a situation like that!”. The other parent reacted with: “I would immediately call her mother so she can take the child home and address her considerably about this, this is really not normal!”.
With some bewilderment and wonder I listened to the conversation. What struck me is that the norm of this parents is obviously that you do not talk about death, let alone to involve this in your game; that this is not ‘normal’ behavior. I wondered if whether they had investigated at all why this girl had the need to play that someone is dying. Aren’t her feelings being ignored this way? Shouldn’t we as a parent precisely investigate the needs of our children so that we understand why they act the way they do? So that we can teach them how to deal with this?
And above all not assume that our norm is the ‘truth’, or the standard of the rest of the world.
This brings me back to principle 7 of ‘The 1- principles of Leadership and Life’ of Being on Mission, namely: I focus on empathy.
This principle is about really understanding the other person in a way the other person feels understood by you, and thereby building on the relationship. Listening with empathy is the key-toll for everyone, whether you are a parent, coach, a sales person or a leader. Make sure the other person feels truly understood by you before you go to solutions, judge or conclude. It’s only then when you really understand, you can help the other person to build trust, set goals and take action. People need to articulate their situation; the greatest human need is to be understood. So, let’s make some time for each other again and make a real effort in understanding each other!
Do you have an interesting example of empathy, or the lake of it, that you once experienced and that you want to share with us? Feel free to react on this blog or contact one of us.