2. Empathy helps open your mind.
Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft says that empathy does far more than just motivating you to volunteer or donate, (as an example) as it primarily opens your mind up to think more about other people’s perspectives.
This is my next piece on an article about Satya Nadella’s thoughts on empathy, as the CEO of Mircosoft. The first piece:
describes all of Satya’s 3 main benefits of empathy from a business perspective.
The second piece:
is where I start to look into each of them from my perspective, as someone who works with healthcare professionals (predominantly) to optimise their natural empathic attributes.
Today’s piece is about his Number 2 benefit as seen above: Empathy helps open your mind.
Why is this, because I certainly advocate the same message in my training sessions.
When we do not empathise, we do not allow other people’s view points, perspectives, truths and therefore experiences to enter our consciousnesses. Sometimes, we struggle as our hard wiring is not set up to do that easily. However 98% of the population are hardwired to empathise, to a greater or lesser degree. We may struggle because we are not encouraged to do this in our workplace, or policy and procedure inhibits this ability. We may be struggling with what is happening in our own world and fear being overwhelmed?
However, the more closed off we are to others perspectives, the smaller our world gets. But what is key here, is the emotional awareness aspect. Learning about our own biases and perspectives.
Understanding some of our fears and when we are reacting to those fears in an unhelpful way, enables us to know ourselves better. When we do that…recognise our emotional data and language…we are more able to recognise emotional language and data in others. But sometimes we can get stuck in our own thoughts, emotions and experiences. Empathy, which of course focuses on the perspectives and feelings of others, often through imagination, can enable us to grow personally by challenging our thoughts and views, understanding them better and developing what we need to also. We open our mind to look in a different direction and see a different perspective.
I very much wished to only see my perspective after I lost a child in hospital and wanted to feel very angry with the consultant and see him and his actions in a hateful way. Yet empathy helped me. It challenged me to try and see his perspective, what might it be like to be in his position and how might that feel? This did not equate in me agreeing with him, but I was able to acknowledge him as having a different set of feelings and perspectives, experiences and understanding than me. Empathy opened my mind to see beyond the initial picture. The difficulty of this process….and trust me…empathising with the clinician was not an easy task! But that difficult process pushed and challenged my mind and how I viewed things. It enabled me to not only see the perspective of the other person, but to understand my own perspective more clearly also. Win win!
Empathy was something that was not reciprocated to me by the hospital, but that in turn, gave me insight to the harm that can be done when empathy is not used. When emotional awareness both individually and culturally is not recognised as important or promoted. This struggle of both sides, 1) trying to exercise empathy and 2) being denied it, gave me a richer picture of the impact the presence or absence of empathy had on interactions, conflict, understanding and compassion. One that I am very grateful to have.
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