E is for Empathy

Last weekend, I overheard a conversation between two people.  They were talking about a mutual friend, Alex, who was going through a tough time.  The pair agreed that it was terrible that their pal was experiencing a rough patch and then commented, “he’s just so happy and confident all the time.  It’s good to know that he is actually human and sometimes experiences what the rest of us go through every day.”  I privately wondered, did they really believe that Alex did not experience the same highs and lows that every one of us does on a daily basis?  Did they really think that their friend was incapable of feeling sad or mad or disappointed or hurt or frightened? 

Empathy, or the “ability to understand and share the feelings of another,” is an important quality that we each must develop throughout our lives.  With empathy, we are able to achieve clarity in terms of how life is impacting the people around us.  It allows us to support one another and take responsibility for trying to prop up the people we care about.  Assuredly, every person has moments of splendor… and moments of defeat… moments of bliss… and moments of deep suffering.

Especially as you continue network and build your relationship base, be cognizant of those around you and seek to develop a sense for how they are feeling.  Consider ways that you can be of help to them.  Do this:

  1. Ask. Be curious, but don’t pry.  Express your interest in learning about how the other is getting by.  Actively listen to try to understand what is on their mind and in their heart.
  2. Offer Help.  Be there.  Find out how you can be of service to them.
  3. Open Up.  Share your own successes and disappointments.  Don’t be afraid or ashamed.  Everyone is going through something – good, bad or otherwise – and it helps to have a human ear to listen and a shoulder to lean on.

Happy Networking!

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