I never really understood empathy and during my life it’s never really been a word that’s been used or explained properly. I never really saw any obvious examples within the army of empathy I don’t think.
You’re probably thinking well it’s the army why do you have to show empathy it’s an environment where you are expected to close with and kill the enemy. Well if you look at it I think if you can demonstrate empathy as a leader you would get more from your men and women. I remember being a section commander and I was this person that would drag forward anyone that was falling behind and bark orders or obscenities at them. It was ok at that point with those people and it got them through the scenarios but was it the best way to deal with the situation? Again some will say well it’s the army so yes but now in reflection I think I was wrong in some instances not all just some. There were probably times where I could have slowed the situation down took a moment and asked individuals, are you ok or what are you thinking about this and how do we get through it. That would of been me showing empathy at the situation that could of solved the issue in a different manner and perhaps encouraged the individuals a bit better rather than me screaming and a shouting did.
Showing empathy could have made me a better leader at that level. Now I did develop in this area a little when I was a senior rank as I showed better understanding to people’s unique scenarios but I wasn’t perfect at it by any stretch of the imagination.
Recently I had a conversation with a man over the phone that I had never ever met before. He was calling because the most precious person in his life (his daughter) had an issue that because of his geographical location and lack of knowledge in the area was powerless to do anything about it. He was so concerned about his daughter that emotion took control of the situation for him and before I knew it he was extremely upset on the phone. He was crying about being unable to help his daughter.
Just by me saying listen we can sort this out don’t worry it’s ok. He started to calm down. I explained exactly what I was going to ensure happened and who was going to do it. I was empathetic towards his situation and he settled down took in the information and we moved on to ensure it was carried out.
You see just by being kind and showing empathy to someone you can change their outlook, situation and feelings. It doesn’t have to be in the context I have highlighted here it could be by being genuine and nice to someone at work you don’t usually talk to. This person could be struggling in many aspects in life but the power of a simple conversation could change their life.
Be kind its free!