Thursday, January 03, 2019

Empathy

In response to my Top 5 Skills for 2019 post, a mentor of mine asked, “What about Empathy?”

I found myself resisting. Hard.

We all have Empathy. 

  • Some of us squelch it – partially by training, partially out of self-preservation.
  • Some of us overdo it – inappropriately taking on the emotional labor of others.
  • Some of us (raises hand) swing wildly between the two extremes.

After sitting on this, I realized that my discomfort with Empathy as a skill (particularly for this year) is based in a feeling that I’m not the right person to talk about this. 

I struggle with empathy.  Either too much or too little – depending on my mood and situation.  

I haven’t found the middle ground that serves myself, or others, yet.

I haven’t found a way to guide people on this topic yet because I struggle to live this in healthy ways right now. It seems disingenuous to give advice on something I don’t do well.

My suspicion is that the “skill” is in being empathic in healthy ways – for you AND others. 

  • What is the therapeutic dose of empathy? Not too little, not too much?
  • How can I be present and truly “see” the other person without being lost in that other person or taking on their emotions?
  • Am I able to sit with uncomfortable emotions, mine AND theirs, and do so in a way that helps both of us?

I suspect that I’m going to get more opportunities to explore my relationship with Empathy over the next year. 

Maybe I’ll be ready to add it to my Top Skills list in 2020.


Jamie Good is doing some great work in the workplace wellness space.  He is VERY focused on empathy skills and reducing the stigma around mental wellness in the workplace.

I had a chance to look at an early copy of his Empathy Journal and can’t wait to see the final result!  (No pressure, Jamie!) I don’t know whether he has a release date yet – but I will update you once the Journal comes out.

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