Pause for empathy to unleash strength

Giving friends and colleagues “air time” and allowing them to blow off steam, by just listening and validating, can help them to find their own voice, their own strength and insight to self-correct. You most often don’t have to motivate or correct them. Somehow, when we get listened to and get validated as humans, an inner strength and beautiful hope get unleashed.

As recent as last month my empathy tank got really low. I was dealing with several people and companies that suffered severe setbacks and difficult challenges. If you don’t take care, listening to and encouraging challenged people can wear you down. Unconsciously I felt the compelling responsibility to help these great people to feel and do better. In a way that is an important outcome I strive for in my work. But that Friday afternoon I had nothing more to give, my tank was empty, and I prematurely ended an important conversation with a CEO when he was sharing how tough things were. I was just too tired.

But an amazing thing happened. That Monday, during a sharing session with fellow coaches and counsellors, I was challenged by a good friend. He asked: “Maybe you are too eager to encourage and to help other people to feel better, perhaps you fear their pain so much that you do not make enough time to pause to be where they are with their aches and hurts? You might find that when you are truly present and stay a while where people are, they will find their own energy and methods to get to the other side.” I did not expect that. But wow, that was hitting home. Also a lesson in empathy and loving curiosity!

The next day, I worked with a company who made huge losses in the recent financial year. They worked really hard, did everything right, but the economy, the markets, and other circumstances were overwhelmingly against them. Instead of helping them to feel better, I started the session by giving them ample time to debrief and share all their frustrations, disappointments, sadness, anger, resentments etc. They took the opportunity to blow of steam and we heard every person’s heart. I was just present, being there for them, just listening.

And then something beautiful happened. They, without my directive, started to encourage themselves, finding new hope and direction. “We still have each other”, “we can make plans to get us through”, and “we have been here before and got through that”, “what about doing… ”, etc. I saw new camaraderie, new hope, and new courage being generated – strengths that I would never have been able to create or give.

Friends, let’s take time to pause and to be present with and for each other. And then allow and expect something good to happen in that space.

Thank you, for reading my Ways2Grow blog letters. The world needs people like you, people who are willing to reflect, willing to change, willing to grow. It’s Easter. May we get out of the graves of old, non-useful habits, and rise to live fully.