Empathy is so hot right now, something that we all know we need to practice more to ensure we have better cultures, better business outcomes, better leadership.Interestingly enough, many people think of this as a soft skill, something Mums and women are good at and that the rest of the mere mortals lack empathy, don’t show empathy, don’t show they care.
I love the way Brene Brown shares her insights from over 20 years of researching and teaching empathy. She says that
Empathy is not a personality driven trait, it is a skill set and it can be taught. Namely it is 4 things coming together in a beautiful symphony called ‘empathy’.
The 4 pillars of empathy:
· Staying out of judgement
· Perspective taking
· Identifying emotion in others
· Articulating an identified emotion
So many of us default into judgement, forget to take perpective, are not well practiced in identifying emotion in others let alone articulating the identified emotion… ever heard someone complain about someone else at work:
“The are lazy”, “They are taking the piss”, “She is such a bitch”, “I can’t believe they did/said that”, “What were they thinking” – these are all examples of people in the judgement space who haven’t taken the time to take perspective or identify the emotion in others. The new goal isn’t just emotional intelligence, it isn’t just about identifying emotions, it is also about being about to articulate this identified emotion, Brene calls this ‘Emotional literacy’, which is a sum of the 4 pillars of empathy plus compassion. It is important to note that there really is a difference between empathy and compassion. We can empathise without giving compassion, compassion is more spiritual and connecting.
Brene believes there are 3 dangerous universal stories that question our loveability, our creativity and our divinity.
If someone has neglected to love you in the past, this is not because you are unloveable. Self love is so important and self compassion, providing empathy to self to understand that the love you haven’t been ‘given’ is not an indication that you are unloveable, every human on earth is loveable.
During her research, she asked questions about creativity and learning, over 85% of women and men shared shaming stories which changed the way they thought about themselves as learners – these stories were usually related to art, creativity – “I’m not creative” – stories they tell themselves that inhibit their ability. But contrary to old beliefs, you are not born creative and it isn’t just a right brain skill. Scientists have discovered over 90 areas of the brain come together during the creative process. 90 areas all over the brain, not just on one side. They have also discovered wonderful areas of the brain light up when musicians and artists ‘improvise’ – go off the beaten track and allow themselves to ‘create’. But here is something interesting that Brene found, unused creativity is not benign, it isn’t like an used book on a shelf, it festers, it turns into shame, pain, guilt. We all inherently crave the ability to express and to create.
Brene beautifully encourages everyone to understand and express their divinity. There is no person, church, religion, business who has the right to ask or question what we believe and our divinity. How we show up, is up to us. Who we are in our hearts is the most important thing.
So empathy is not just a warm fuzzy female or right brain trait, it is a trainable skill set and compassion is something we can foster and in practicing self compassion so that we are capable of empathising from a recharged heart space, Remember your loveabiliy, your creativity and divinity, Noone can take this away from you.