“Face to face conversation is the most human and humanizing thing we do. Fully present to one another, we learn to listen. It’s where we develop the capacity for empathy,” shares Sherry Turkle in her Book Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age.
Our son’s school sends out a bi-weekly newsletter. Each week the students work on their community and character building campaign. This past week they discussed and practiced empathy. The students defined empathy as “caring for others and thinking about how they might feel. Being empathetic can help you when a conflict arises between two people”. As you can imagine, this does not come easy for 6-year old’s but I wonder if we are doing any better?
What is empathy in our times? We live in a world that is constantly connected. But are we truly connecting? Are texts and snapchats just ways to avoid conversations especially difficult or uncomfortable ones? How often do these forms of communication cause confusion or misinterpretation?
Using technology to respond to a situation allows us time to think, contemplate and then carefully determine and orchestrate our responses and reactions all without having to face another person or see their happiness, sadness or anger. We are losing our ability to be spontaneous and to be able to react in the moment. Don’t we owe people our full attention and our empathy?
We are a world of social multi taskers which makes us feel like we are accomplishing a lot and really connecting with so many people. However, a Michigan State University study is looking at the connection of media multitasking being associated with depression, social anxiety and understanding human emotions.
Again, we are remiss in understanding how to be empathetic. How will this behavior shift impact the workplace? Imagine these scenarios: a salesperson who is not able to understand the nonverbal ques a client is sharing; what if your supervisor calls you into the office to explain a mistake that has occurred or dissatisfaction with your work, how do you take the in the moment feedback?; you are working with a team at work and asked to share ideas but would rather not and are viewed as noncontributing.
We need to get to a place where we can take and share feedback and understand how our words and actions impact those around us. It is not easy. We all make mistakes and possibly unintentionally hurt someone’s feelings. Being able to read a situation and work together is a great skill worth investing the time in. If you don’t believe me…. Google it (just kidding)!
Through the work we do at MCG Partners, we have seen more companies investing in assessments for their employees, executive coaching and collaborative and team building and alignment off-sites or programs. The desired outcome is to have team members understand and appreciate each other and their perspectives, how to influence, actively listen, make better decisions, manage expectations, etc. It is a win-win for everyone as employees gain new skills, increase self-awareness and the team flourishes. Take it from our 6 year old…it isn’t easy but it’s a great thing.
About the Author: Adrienne Mollor
About MCG Partners
MCG Partners a woman-owned, Greater Boston-based consultancy specializing in executive coaching, leadership development, talent management, and organizational development solutions. We help businesses optimize success through the entire management life-cycle. MCG Partners is also a Predictive Index® (PI®) certified partner.