A very dear colleague once said, "There is a difference in ten years of experience. For one it is ten years of doing the same thing over and over again. For the other it is ten years of doing something different and uniquely challenging each year. Identifying this difference is the key to success in today's business market." We should find it necessary to understand the relevance of this idea and how it affects our psyche in and out of the workplace. Consider only what differentiates the one who seeks new challenges each year from the other who is content from year to year within a familiar realm. Is it fear of the unknown that presents the barrier? Perhaps vulnerability is what scares us away? Risk of failure rears its ugly face. Along our leadership journey it is crucial that we free our selves from this invisible enemy, else it may control our very existence.
Where does empathy fit in to this? By defeating our internal instincts, which produce in our minds the need to stay in a comfort zone, we can improve communication with our acquaintances. The act of entering into the unknown forces us to relive the feelings that accompany new beginnings. It is all too easy for us to bury these thoughts deep in our memory. Why shouldn't we bury them there? These feelings are very unpleasant. In the work place and at home, however, we find others entering our life in this way quite often. How many new hires joined the team during these past few years? Did any of us have a child in our life that entered a new, vulnerable, unknown stage in life? When those closest to us go through these periods, they seek someone who will listen to their lot. How else should we be better prepared for listening with empathy if we our selves delve into the unknown on a regular basis?
When approached by an acquaintance in this circumstance we may find it very tempting to use an experience-based response. This, however, is the most proven method of turning off the ears of the very one seeking help. Just recall the last time someone said, "Well, when I was your age....so everything will be just fine." How about this one, "At the last place I worked we.......and things were much better." How did these types of responses make us feel in the moment? If we want to turn others completely off, to have them throw up their guard and close their ears, then let us just start preaching to them about how good we used to be and what great things we’ve done or accomplished. Why does this happen? Jealousy? Selfishness? Ego? Why do we so commonly use experience-responses? Perhaps it is our modern culture, which places "specific experience" in the king's chair. It is imperative that we remember that if I’ve approached you with a problem that I’m having then I want this time that we spend discussing the issue to be all about me. When we bring up examples of our past then we are effectively taking away the time that I want dedicated to my problem, and additionally we are inserting a boastful cause on our own behalf. Reality can often be a bitter pill to swallow. We should all challenge our selves and one another to step outside of our comfort zone from time to time and in so doing eviscerate experience-responses.
Copyright © Robert Clinton Chedester 2013