Many of you will be familiar with the classic group initiative Helium Stick. It’s one of those deceptively simple tasks that it actually very difficult…
There are only two blogs I faithfully read every day when they are posted, and one of them is written by Seth Godin. This particular one resonated with me because it helped me make sense of the value of seeking to connect first, before adding content.
In Seth’s words, he described the pathway to developing meaningful and rewarding human relationships as Empathy > Connection > Trust.
I have understood for a long time that to connect with others, I must first have empathy for them. Or, in other words, it is necessary that I see or hear or feel the other person. I may not be able to ‘fix’ the issue, but when in doubt, I always know to be human, first.
Charging on with your program agenda without acknowledging the pain some people may be feeling (whatever form it may take) is not a pathway to connection. Nor is sending a generic form letter to a customer/student/staff member to apologise for some errant organisational system failure. Bumping into a stranger as you walk past them on the street and not offering a simple apology, while not necessary, certainly does nothing to build empathy for or connection with the other.
Humans long for connection. We are hard-wired to connect with others. And true connection starts with building empathy.
Leveraging the work of Will Wise and his Asking Powerful Questions Pyramid, empathy starts with intention, to build rapport which permits openness to turn up. Then, and only then, can we truly listen to the other person to help us develop empathy for the other. In this order. Every time. Simple, but it’s not easy.
This is the work of ’emotional labour’ as Seth describes it. Emotional labour is hard to do, yet it is one of my most potent tools as an effective group facilitator who has worked in this field for 30+ years.
The more I practice ’emotional labour (being human) and model these behaviours, the greater and more powerful connections (and trust) I can expect to build.
This work is easy when things are going well. The hard part is training myself to perform this emotional labour – to build connections – when it’s most needed by the people I am with.
Do you agree with Seth and me? How would you map the development of empathy?
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