The Hidden Treasure - Part III- Empathy

“The great gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy.” –Meryl Streep, the highest-ranking American Actress, thanks to both nominations (31) and winning (8) the Golden Globe Awards, as well as the Academy Awards with 21 nominations and three wins.

We need two essential elements for active communication, one person speaking and the other listening. If either of the two is missing, there can never be any active connection possible. Any or all other forms of communication are passive whether it is Email, SMS, Mail, Voice Mail, FAX, Text, Video or any other type you can ever imagine. Active communication or Real-Time interaction is the most effective form due to instant response, leading to faster action.

It is very common to watch our presumed active communication turning into passive because of the person supposed to be listening not paying due attention. He or she may be hearing your voice, but lack of focus leads to a lost message and hence a missed opportunity that could lead to complications.

The simple act of paying respect to the speaker, diligently understanding and registering the salient features of the message is ‘empathy.’ It is not just a fluke but an art, a skill that anyone can hone. Please take note of the fact I did not say ‘it can be acquired’ because we are born with this skill. The only difference is that some of us have mastered it whereas most others lose the same because they fail to realize its hidden value. The more you practice empathy, the better you get at it.

The question is, why are we discussing ‘empathy’ here and now? What is the connection between empathy and a ‘hidden treasure?’ How could our being empathetic bring us the rewards that we may rightfully claim as a treasure discovered?

The question is, why are we discussing ‘empathy’ here and now? What is the connection between empathy and a ‘hidden treasure?’ How could our being empathetic bring us the rewards that we may rightfully claim as a treasure discovered?

The answer lies in our perception, either we accept it, or we reject it. Acceptance will only come once we understand what all it entails for us to become adept at this skill. Rejecting empathy as a wasteful practice will push us further down into the quagmire of nothingness as we may never expand our circle of trusted friends, relations, or well-wishers.

Attentively listening to someone trying to talk to us or in a group setting will only help us gain new insights. Your attention gives the other person a feeling of respect. It sends out the message of open-mindedness and trust.

It helps uncover multiple open channels of communication that may not be available to us otherwise. Not only that, attentive listening gives us the opportunity to be heard equally well when we raise our concern or question the speaker on any part of the communication. It helps receive as well as deliver explicit messages on either side.

I am reminded of an old, time-honored adage: “The intelligent speak because they have something to say; the fools speak because they have to say something.” You can only draw the line by listening attentively. Such a simple exercise can tell you volumes about the speaker and his/her intelligence level. Is that a bad bargain? I will let you decide.

Can you imagine how lonely you would become if all your friends left you because of your failure to pay attention to them every time they spoke? Sounds terrible, right, and why should it not be scary?

If you want friends who listen to you and share your thoughts and ideas, naturally you will need to reciprocate as well. Please take serious note of this valuable advice: “Friendship is a living thing that lasts only as long as it is nourished with kindness, empathy, and understanding.” -Unknown

Empathy helps you take note of valuable information that could help you in a million different ways. The lack thereof will keep you from benefiting from vital information.

The next best part of this hidden treasure comes in the shape of a marked improvement in your personality. Just because you have mastered the art of empathetic listening, your answers will be well-balanced, precise, and matured.

You will be able to address people’s concerns accurately as per points raised in a specific gathering. It is the enhanced power of listening, absorbing and analytically addressing any or all questions, concerns, requisitions, etc. that hides the power of career-growth within. Who would not want to have a highly analytical individual on his/her team?

Empathy helps build trust It enables you to maintain composure It keeps you away from unnecessary distractions It gives the speaker an opportunity to speak freely It empowers you to hold your concerns awaiting your turn It helps you stay focused, instead of disrupting the speaker Empathy allows you to present your viewpoint without distraction

I remember a very valuable lesson my maternal grandfather taught me a long time ago: “There is nobility in compassion, beauty in empathy, and grace in forgiveness.” To this day, I have seen this wisdom help me win both hearts and business deals as these qualities go a long way in building bridges with strangers.

The globally renowned, billionaire TV personality, and philanthropist Oprah Winfrey had this to say about empathy: “Leadership is about empathy. It is about having the ability to relate to and connect with people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives.”

Let us go one step further and partake of another valuable piece of advice from the following message from Anita Roddick, the founder of The Body Shop that promotes ethical consumerism. Honored with the title of ‘Dame’ or “DBE” her company sells cosmetic products not tested on animals: “I hope to leave my children a sense of empathy and pity and a will to right social wrongs.”

I sincerely hope the intelligent readers will find value in the above submission while I work on explaining the remaining three ‘hidden treasures’ (Honesty, Dedication, and Perfection) in my upcoming posts.

In the meantime, please feel free to try it, who knows you might like it!

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