I’ve been talking to people a lot recently about empathy – what it is, what our reactions are to it, how can it be helpful – or not.
Many people believe empathy is a good thing, but do not generally give it a lot of thought, particularly when it comes to professional relationships. Whether you work primarily in an office as part of a team, primarily with clients, or primarily on your own, acknowledging that emotions are a part of life and being open to sharing compassion can be hugely beneficial. Even at work!
Compassion & Empathy – What’s the Connection?
Empathy is when we feel, or understand, someone else’s emotion. Compassion is one of the possible responses to empathy; in fact, it’s the goal. When we can see that someone else is in any type of distress – dealing with an emotion we typically think of as “negative” like anger, sadness, grief, disappointment, etc. – compassion is what we’re feeling if...
I came across a quote about active listening that I absolutely love! Michael Shurtleff, to whom the quote is attributed, was a legendary casting director. He wrote the bible for actors to learn how to audition for roles (it’s called, simply, Audition).
Listening is not merely hearing, it is receiving the message that is being sent to you.
Listening is reacting.
Listening is being affected by what you hear.
Listening is letting it land before you react.
Listening is letting your reaction make a difference.
Listening is active.
This encapsulates everything I believe about the importance of the listener in how we communicate with each other. When we listen to others, our responses should make a difference - even if the only “difference” is that the other person feels understood, truly understood. We do not need to give advice or provide a solution in order to make a difference to someone.
Taking the time to let yourself react, and feel whatever emotions are evoked...
I’m psyched to bring my Resolve Conflict Now training to BBG’s audience of HR professionals on September 18, 2019, in the comfort of their own offices - not BBG’s offices; this is a webinar anyone can join. It’s also free! Register here.
Part of the 101-level, one-hour webinar will focus on how to build a collaborative workforce. I sum it all up with four keys:
Let’s take them, briefly, one by one.
Your mindset is always a choice: When you can, choose curiosity. Someone at work is in your face, or didn’t do something they’re supposed to, or did do something they are not supposed to do. Instead of focusing on blame or disappointment, choose to get curious - Why did they behave that way? What might be happening that’s motivating them to do that thing that’s completely awful, in your opinion? Why exactly do you think it is completely awful?
Have a conversation with...
Someone asked me recently what the key is to happiness at work. I follow the PERK formula: Purpose, Engagement, Resilience, and Kindness.
EDIT: I'll be giving a 45-minute sneak peek into these four keys to happiness at work, plus easy tips to incorporate every day, on July 28, 2021. Tickets are $50. Join us!
Feeling happy at work requires knowing your purpose. Purpose has nothing to do with money. It’s not about a paycheck or profits. It’s knowing that what you do makes a difference in the world. Purpose is not necessarily about doing good; the difference may be about social status or power or something relatively insignificant - like - I make things people can store stuff in. Those who can easily connect their purpose to dearly-held personal values are even happier.
If you show up to work just for the paycheck, it’s not necessarily time to find a new job - spend some time thinking about your personal values, about everything you do in your job, and...
Most recently, my clients have either benefited from - or explicitly requested - information about active listening. As a mediator, active listening is one of my most important skills. Active listening:
Is the best way I know to ensure that I understand what is being communicated.
Allows me to ask about and better empathize with the emotions behind whatever is being said.
Helps forge and enhance relationships - professional and personal.
I’ve written about active listening before, and today I read a new, short piece by Daniel Goleman about it. He writes about what research has shown, namely that active listening requires sensing, processing, and responding. Most importantly, it requires unitasking - shut off the phone, turn away from the screen, and - if at all possible - shut down the part of your brain that brings up your to-do or shopping lists!
Still, both my previous posts and Goleman’s latest provide more of a philosophy than a basic tips sheet on active...
Recently I spoke with a colleague about something that sounded eerily familiar: Her company had just instituted summer hours, but the information required by HR for managers to share with employees informing them of the new benefit sounded strangely punitive.
This had happened to me at another workplace, several years ago, in a different industry altogether.
Summer Hours Offer Flexibility & Autonomy
Summer hours are lovely: Put in a little extra time four days a week (usually a half hour added to the beginning or end of the day), and leave at lunchtime on Friday. Or, use the same small addition of extra time, and get every other Friday off. Summer hours are a form of flexibility that recognizes that many people, no matter what phase of life you may be in, like to spend summer weekends traveling or relaxing - so much so that they may be distracted and less productive at work even when they’re at the office! This policy is a nice way to keep productivity levels...
Let me first say: I am not a lawyer. Nothing in this post is intended to give you legal advice!
Now, as a mediator I am sometimes asked about how to find a lawyer. While many mediators are lawyers, I am not – and even if your mediator is a lawyer, they are not allowed to represent you or give you legal advice while mediating! (A lot of mediating is about neutrality, and the mediator would not be a neutral third party if they gave one side legal advice.)
Since I became a mediator, I have learned about a few options for people who think they need a lawyer. These are either low/no-cost services, or, services that are intended to put you in touch with a lawyer who you then can decide whether or not to hire. There are three services local to where I live that I’ll highlight in this post.
Legal Services of Northern Virginia (LSNV)
LSNV is a nonprofit whose mission is to provide access to justice for disadvantaged individuals and communities. Designed to help...
This morning I had the pleasure of hearing Danny Nelms, President of the Work Institute, present about the real reasons employees leave their jobs. There are 50 different reasons employees choose to leave their workplace.
The Work Institute is an HR consulting firm that treats exit interviews like academic research studies, and every year they create a report that summarizes – with anonymized data – what they have learned about why employees left their companies in the prior year.
Apparently the truism that “people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers,” is sort of, kind of, not really true. Here are the top three reasons people choose to leave their jobs:
Lack of career development
Yup, managers are number 3! But look at those first two things - they are absolutely aspects of work that managers have a lot of control over. Yes, company-wide policies set limits on career development, promotion, flexibility, and paid...
The latest “Mediator Tips” will be offered in person at our workshop on April 4, 2019. The title is - simply - Resolve Conflict at Work. Register here (tickets are just $20 each).
It’s a small, intensive workshop limited to just 12 participants. The participants should be managers, especially:
someone new to managing a team,
someone who wants to better understand how to manage a team for minimal conflicts and optimal engagement,
or someone who’s been managing people for a while but is dealing with a lot of different personalities - or conflicts!
The workshop will cover how to build trust on your team in order to better manage conflict. We’ll also go over:
the impact of culture on conflict;
how to build trust on your team;
active listening skills;
identifying reactions to conflict (and what to do with that info);
resources to build your own ability to identify different emotional reactions;
and, when it’s best to...
….Um, I have no idea!
But I can tell you about emotional intelligence, and recommend a few starting places if you want to learn to use emotions wisely with all your relationships.
First, a word about sources
There are SO many! What I’ve learned has come from a great edX.org course called “Empathy and Emotional Intelligence at Work.” UC Berkeley professors Dacher Keltner and Emiliana Simon-Thomas provide an overview of empathy, compassion, and emotional intelligence, drawing from pioneers in the field like Daniel Goleman, who so many have heard of, as well as Peter Salovey and John Mayer and others. If this is a topic you’re interested in, there are PLENTY of opportunities to learn from masters. Seriously. An an example - look up Daniel Goleman on LinkedIn!
By the way, emotional intelligence and EQ are technically different things, like, to a researcher - but it’s easier to use them interchangeably, as I will here. EQ is simply the measure of...