CRM software runs my life

Tag: emotional

Empathy is finding echoes of another person in yourself

Empathy Project – my path to discovering empathy

Empathy is finding echoes of another person in yourselfIn a small room off the Google Sydney reception in 2015 I was called a jerk by a co-worker in New York. This isn’t a particularly strong word or anywhere near the worst abuse I had ever heard, but I was stunned given the context of a 1:1 in a very politically correct company. More than that, I was stunned because I was right in my opinion on the discussion subject and he was right in his opinion of me.

The possibility of two things being simultaneously true and contradicting wasn’t beyond me, but I fundamentally didn’t have the skills to break down why or how the relationship had reached this point. Out of a feeling of confusion and basic self-awareness of an issue, I setup a subsequent VC with the peer’s manager. His words still stick with me – “Don’t you think we know that you’re right? In a year’s time we won’t remember the results of the project, but we will remember how we felt working with you”. This was the gap, this was my empathy wakeup call.

It took me almost two years, an MBA and two children before I felt confident that I had developed even an average grasp on empathy. Looking back now, it’s fascinating to me to understand with hindsight why it took so long. My starting point wasn’t poor self-awareness, I’ve always had a decent hold on that. The starting roadblock was that somewhere deep in my past I had developed a belief that emotion had no place in a professional environment. Look at the data, find the objectively correct answer, launch and iterate. Change is hard, but in an environment of constant change you need to put the emotion aside and trust the data will reward you with a better opportunity.

The truth is that emotions are always present, whether you want them there or not. The question is how well do you not only control them, but use them as a force for good. This lead to a deep internal questioning process under the guise of authenticity. Neil Bearden gave me the simplest description of authenticity I’ve ever heard: “Smokers fundamentally want to smoke, they have an underlying and genuine addiction. They do however have first order control over that addiction, based on cancer education for example. Authenticity means you only expose genuine, underlying beliefs or needs – it doesn’t mean you don’t control when and how they are exposed in a sophisticated way.” I could safely explore who I was and what I genuinely wanted, while trusting that this wasn’t laying your soul bare on the table as a whole (although maybe in parts) and more importantly that it was a real tool that I could use both personally and professionally to add a new dimension to my relationships. This was something I wanted.

The final piece was getting the confidence to use my empathy in a real way. It was about a year of trial and error before I developed any confidence that I wasn’t a) full of shit or b) a bad person who was putting that on display. There was a distinct point at a company offsite that I was so internally conflicted about my ability that I literally wrote my fear on a piece of paper and threw it into the fire. It was time to commit to embracing empathy and there was no going back.

Frankly I still don’t use empathy as often as I should or would like to. I at least know that I enjoy the feeling of connecting with others, that it improves my life and theirs, and that there is plenty more opportunity to use it. That’s enough for me to feel confident, now it’s just a case of practicing and finding the next fault to develop.

Facebook makes you emotionally stunted

Facebook and Zuckerberg are worshipped in a book, movie and this article. I have nothing but respect for the guy and what he has achieved, but what is it doing to society? And if I was cynical (and/or a capitalist), how can we use that change to predict the next big thing?

The quote at the end of the article really struck a chord with me:

We may laugh at Socrates, in the Phaedrus, for denouncing literacy, which he said would create “forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves…. They will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality.”

Is this the first recorded recognition of our increasing degree of specialisation? People’s general knowledge is reduced, and instead focused on a very niche area of experience (i.e. they can rewrite Facebook in Java in under a week, but can’t cook a meat pie).

This specialisation has now extended into the social space. We have less time to socialise, our relationships become more casual, and therefore we need a tool like Facebook to painlessly maintain our fragile web of relationships. Facebook doesn’t deliver a whole lot of intimacy in return, so the numbing cycle continues.

I am not going to make a comment on society becoming more emotionally stunted, because it will make me seem anti-change and old fashioned. Instead, perhaps we can use this as a predictor for future social trends? How can one socialise more efficiently? I only want to be invited to the parties that my best friends are all going to. Alert me when I haven’t replied to my friend’s message within 48 hours. Let me know when I haven’t been tagged in any photos for 7 days and clearly need to get out more. Automated social network maintenance!

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