Irony is when we judge others as lacking empathy

In our inaugural episode, we host Pierre Powell, the President of PAMCO Investments Corp and Leadership Consultant. Pierre shares two stories from the time when he was in the Air Force, when he struggled to empathize with two of his co-workers.

Apr 4th 2014 12:55pm ET

Dear Dr. Csikszentmihalyi

It occurs to me
that the sense of “oneness” we feel
when we empathize
may be related
to the sense of “oneness” we feel
when we’re in flow.

Have you ever wondered if they were related?

Would be an honor to hear from you,

with much gratitude

slim


Apr 4th 2014 2:33pm ET

Hi Slim,

That feeling
is something you can experience
as a result of different ways
of organizing your attention:
By feeling a sense of awe
looking at the ocean or the starry sky,
by meditating,
or by engaging in an activity that produces flow.

I don’t know
whether these are exactly the same
— we have no way to measure “oneness”
except by relying on subjective accounts —
but they sure sound very
similar . . .

Best,

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Welcome to Season 1 of The Journey of Realizing Empathy.

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We Live in Divided Times

When I rescue,
I take responsibility
for carrying out the actions
that increase the chance
of someone’s survival.

When I support,
I help someone
learn the choice
to take responsibility
for carrying out the actions
that increase the chance
of their own survival.

The temptation
is to use empathy
as a means
to persuade.

To be right.

To win.

Far more difficult
is to realize empathy
as a means
to create.

To learn something
new.

To win
together.

For people in need of help
“How can I help?”
can be an overwhelming
question.

Instead,
listen and inquire deeply.

To unearth
their unconscious concerns.

Respect creatively.

To make value
from their unappreciated concerns.

Request permission.

Before sharing the load
of those specific concerns.

Be honest.

Enough to share
your own struggles.

And most importantly,
follow up.

Soon,
the need to ask
“How can I help?”
will vanish.

Doing our best
does not guarantee
an ideal outcome.

In fact,
what doing our best can do
that doing less cannot
is expose to us
our limitations.

In such a way
that we become motivated
to either
accept our limitations
with our whole heart
or
embark on a journey of development
to extend the boundary
of our limitations.

“I don’t know how
to persuade him” said the founder.

“What
do you want to have happen?”
I asked.

“I want to persuade him.”
she responded.

“No.
What do you want to have happen
by persuading him?”
I asked again.

“…”

“I want you
to move your focus away from the how
to what it is you really want.” I remarked,
breaking the silence.

“What do you want?”
I asked again.

“I want…

I want to feel supported.” she answered,
after much thought.

“When’s the last time
you felt supported by him?”
I asked.

“I’ve never felt supported by him.”
she answered.

“Then what makes you so sure
that persuading him
is the way to feel supported?”
I asked.

One
of the hardest things
I had to learn in art school
was how to stop
thinking.

At first,
I just told myself
to stop thinking,
which made me think
more.

I only stopped thinking
after I learned
to empathize with my materials—
be it wood,
or metal.

And I only learned
to empathize with my materials
after interacting with it
over
and over
and over again,
learning
to support
and to be supported
in that relationship.

Until there was
trust.

Trust
that came from
having co-developed
a contract
of support.

A process we casually call
“making”

Tension
beyond a certain threshold
will cause damage,
small or big.

Damage
will cause pain,
little or much.

Pain
will yield behaviors
intended to soothe
or prevent further pain.

Some of these behaviors
can damage our relationship to others,
unintentionally.

And yet,
if we
and our relationships
can recover from the damage,
both can develop,
as our muscles do
when they incur damages
from the significant tension they experience
from exercise.