(One of the 83 quick and practical life & work lessons from Sh*t Sandwich: Quick & Practical Success Lessons for Practically Anyone.)
Concern, Like Courtesy, Is Free
Another great way to improve your relationships is to add a measure of concern to your diet. Of course to “be” concerned for someone you need to be “genuinely” concerned. “Be” is a verb – you have to actually work at this.
The trials and tribulations that your subordinates or coworkers face may seem petty to you – in fact, they may actually be petty – but it is important to them that they feel understood and that others have empathy for their plight. Notice I didn’t write “sympathy;” I wrote “empathy.” They’re different – and it matters.
Anyone in your organization looking for sympathy at work should pack their trash, because they’re no good to you. Briefly stated, sympathy is the sharing of the feelings of another; while empathy is the intellectual identification with those feelings. No matter how down and depressed I’ve ever been, I’ve never wanted anyone else to share those feelings – ever.
That’s cruel; and if you worked for me, and you were looking for others to share in your misery, then it’s time for you to go find something else to do with your life. You’re bumming out the entire organization; and no one wins – not even the person looking for the sympathy.
As a leader or someone striving to become one, it’s important for you to genuinely empathize with your team; to be concerned for their well-being and for the well-being of their families. (It’s amazing how efficient your team becomes when they know you care.)
So, how can you care when you really don’t? How can you show empathy when you don’t really empathize?
Interestingly, just asking questions and allowing the subordinate or coworker to explain why they’re in the dumps is often more than enough concern for the average person. The human need to be understood – to get something off one’s chest – is something that cannot be underestimated. When others feel like you understand them – that you’re concerned for them – they are more likely to want to do more for you; to help you grow in any way they can.
And, as the title indicated, concern is free.