“Tell me, on a scale from 1 to 10, where are you right now?” I asked curiously…
Since my earliest childhood memories, I’ve been curious about things, people, nature, places, history, travel and culture to name a few. I have always been eager to know or learn something new and understand “why?” That probably explains one of the seemingly insatiable penchant’s of mine…..reading books!
One vivid memory from my childhood involved filling a jam jar with some foliage and then capturing a bumble bee. I’d already had some help to put some holes in the lid of the jar, so that any bee’s I captured could breath. I recall observing and listening to the bee for no more than a day, studying it, feeling sad about keeping it in a jar and then setting it free again.
Curiosity is often seen as the driving force behind not only human development, but developments in science, language, and industry. I know too that it is a vital component in coaching and mentoring
My experience is that questions driven by the curiosity of a coach can be the catalyst and driving force for change. I have come to understand that curiosity is the key to learning. It can help to expand our empathy too by helping us understand life experiences different than our own.
What are you curious about?
“How do you walk in another person’s shoes?” asked the workshop participant…
A great question and one that I have been asked repeatedly in recent coaching workshops.
A big part of the answer is to do with 𝐞𝐦𝐩𝐚𝐭𝐡𝐲.
Empathy is understanding another person’s feelings, thoughts, and condition from their perspective, rather than our own.
In my experience empathy is being very present in any conversation, attentively listening deeply, being open minded without judgement, looking into their eyes and giving someone your undivided attention, in order to sense their emotions. Frequently a human connection is made, resulting in a peek or a fleeting impression into how or what they are really feeling. It is a momentary glimpse of their reality. That’s when I start to feel I am being empathetic.
The good news is – empathy is something that can be learned.
Active or deep listening and asking powerful questions helps us to develop an understanding of another persons situation and in turn develops empathy. As you seek to understand another person, simple responses are very often the most powerful and meaningful ways to help.
Try walking in another’s shoes today, go on give it a go!
The energy in the room was high. Then in a reflective moment one participant shared “I can relate to that” and tears started to flow freely.
The atmosphere changed.
We had already created a safe environment for sharing that day, but the authenticity in the room soared to a different level. Attentively, everyone focused on the personal story being shared. It was a moment of high emotion and an intimate turning point in the workshop. In opening up in such a manner the participant had taken a great risk in approaching a vulnerable area in their life by sharing it so deeply. The silence was palpable.
Unwittingly, by speaking so candidly and tenderly, the participant had completely engaged everyone in the room.
Then it happened.
I watched, as those on either side felt impressed to reach out in a compassionate and reassuring way by physically touching our storyteller.
The whole experience had a profound effect on all of us in the room. There was a feeling of connection, togetherness and unity for a fleeting moment in time.
Deep and meaningful learning moments come quite unexpectedly at times. When they do, don’t be afraid to welcome them, gently explore them, embrace them and cherish them….forever.
Can you reach out and touch someone today?
Empathy is the “capacity to understand or share the feelings of another person – that is, the capacity to place oneself in another’s position.”
Recently – in many of the workshops that I have facilitated, empathy has been a frequent topic of discussion in the room. As a coach and counsellor, it has struck me that empathy is looking on the heart, to seek a deep understanding of the feelings of others. I’ll often ask myself “Where am I listening from?”
Elaine Walton observed – “Because of our unique set of personal experiences, we have been conditioned to look at people from different perspectives. We could all be looking at the same person. Some of us would see the background. Others would see the clothing the person is wearing. And some would notice the facial expression and imagine what the person might be thinking or feeling.”
I have come to understand that I cannot help another person, unless I can recognise how they feel. I have also learned that empathy is important for everyone, not just professional coaches like me. It is a vital ingredient for all positive interpersonal relationships. If we couldn’t at least imagine what it feels like to be in someone else’s shoes, we wouldn’t be able to connect; we would live our lives in isolation.
Five tips for greater empathy –
1. Set aside your own point of view
2. Actively listen
3. Ask yourself – what would you do?
4. Serve others more often
5. Be non-judgemental
How can empathy help you build relationships?