Posts Tagged ‘judgment’

A lesson in emotional intelligence–from the critters

Article contributed by Amy Sargent.

I built a little pond on my plot at my community garden last year. I’ve put a lot of loving work into it, gathering and arranging rocks, purchasing a bubbling solar fountain, and nudging plants to life around its perimeter. I collected cattails from a nearby stream and replanted them along with a few lily pads and other water plants. One of my neighbors even put fish in it which we both feed.

So you can imagine my frustration arriving every day to discover the rocks have been thrown in, plants are torn up and knocked over, and the pump is disassembled in pieces at the bottom of the pond. The foam pump float has been ripped apart, full of tiny fingernail imprints. Grrr! Who would do this?!

My garden neighbors have a wild child whom I caught several times last year playing in my pond, throwing rocks, trampling plants, etc. The parents would yell at him to get out but he paid them no mind. So my assumption–of course–was to blame this hellion for the daily destruction. I know it’s a small thing in the big scheme of life, but I found myself getting really cranky that these parents would not discipline their child enough to keep him out of other people’s stuff! All the ‘facts’ matched up: he is an unruly kid and needs to stop.

Just when I had developed a real attitude about the poor little kid (and his parents), I read an article about the damage that raccoons can do to a garden pond. Raccoons! And as I started looking a little closer at all the signs, I see now that it is obviously one of these masked critters who is the culprit and not the little boy! Especially because the parents assured me (yes, I spoke with them) they haven’t even brought him to the garden this summer! Here I spent a few stressful weeks dissing on these parents and the kid, in my mind, and even talked to the garden manager about it, in my ‘kindhearted righteousness’. So imagine my chagrin at the realization.

Which got me thinking…

Sometimes we make negative judgments of people when we really don’t have all the facts. We think we do. But we don’t. We create a story in our mind based upon our views and outlooks and determine it is the truth…when it’s just not. It’s easy to do. And it’s hurtful. And wrong. And it’s a good way to ruin relationships and assure our hearts will become bitter.

Have anyone you’re judging today based upon YOUR set of facts? Someone you KNOW is in the wrong, and has bad intentions…so you think. What if…what if you’re wrong? What if there’s a different perspective, some whys you might not be aware of, some facts you haven’t noticed, which are missing from the narrative you’ve so carefully crafted? I’d like to encourage you to learn from my mistake…and let’s all take a lesson from the critters. Give someone the benefit of the doubt. Quit pointing the finger. Accept that maybe your own closed mindedness may be the real ‘bad guy.’

I’ve got some apologizing to do.

Then I’m going to forgive myself.

Then I’m going to go water that garden.

Lessons in Empathy from Hollywood

hollywoodArticle contributed by guest author Dawn Cook

Coming out of the theater after watching Schindler’s List, I couldn’t go home because I was too melancholy.  My friend and I both needed to go somewhere to shake off the somber feelings the movie stirred within us.  When you get to the end of the movie and you realize you were completely caught up in the story and feeling the emotions of the characters, you know that’s great acting. The Godfather, Shawshank Redemption, Forrest Gump and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest are other examples of great acting.  The actors got you to empathize with their characters.

 So how do they pull it off?  How do they draw you into their story?  They have to really get into the heads of their characters and understand their motives, thought processes and emotions.  They have to become the character in their minds.  Think Dustin Hoffman in Rainman or Sean Penn in I Am Sam. They totally embraced the character. That’s what I call deep empathy!

In the workplace, empathy is one of the most underutilized emotional intelligence skills, yet it’s potentially the most influential.  True empathy means not just putting yourself in someone else’s shoes or seeing it from their perspective; it’s really understanding what the other person is saying and feeling without judging it.  Do you think Marlon Brando balked at saying his line, “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse” because he judged it as unnecessary?  No, totally he owned it!

Too often we listen just long enough to get the gist of the issue and we jump in with our solution.  Today’s fast pace dictates we move quickly to solve and move on.  Unfortunately nobody told our brains that was the game plan.  If we don’t feel like we’ve been heard and understood and that the person really gets it, our brains sense a threat and we go into flight or fight mode.  It’s basic instinct. Essentially we will resist whatever solution they offer.  I was coaching a leader recently who said when his team brings him an issue, he listens for how it’s going to impact him and responds to that – and only that.  His team says he doesn’t really listen; he just jumps in with a solution.  The consequence?  The solution doesn’t address the entire issue and the team is frustrated.

Of course most any skill can become a weakness if overused.  This is true for empathy.  In the movie, A Streetcar Named Desire, Vivian Leigh, who played Blanche Du Bois – the character who had a mental breakdown in the story, empathized so deeply with her character that she had a mental breakdown herself not long after making the movie.  She thought she WAS Blanche Du Bois. So it is possible to have too much empathy.

At the office, showing too much empathy could look like not delegating to your team because you know they have a lot on their plates and you don’t want to overburden them.   Instead, you do the work yourself on evenings and weekends, leaving you with no work/life balance.

Hollywood’s lesson?  Be willing to fully empathize with others when you need to find solutions, address conflict, or influence outcomes.  But know when to draw the line on your personal boundaries.

Thank you for reading.  Make it an awesome day!

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