A recent conversation about empathy surfaced in a group I was working with.
One of the group members described an experience he had the previous night. While eating dinner with his friends, a homeless person specifically approached him and asked for some money.
He shared that he did not give the person money at that time, because he was not sure how it would be spent. But, he said, “if the homeless person had asked for food he would have given him food immediately.”
His story generated interest and a fruitful conversation that eventually led to the question, “ Does empathy have to lead to action?”
This question got me thinking about what prevents people from acting empathically – especially since there is strong evidence indicating that we’re neurally wired for empathy. Continue reading →
‘ “I am trying to cultivate a life style that does not require my presence.”
I was going through a bunch of old notes last week and came across this formula for “Authentic Presence”. I don’t know where I initially discovered it – so my apologies to its author for the missing attribution.
Increasingly, I find that one important question I can ask leaders I work with is – how present are you in your communication with others? While listening is critical – staying present in the moment carries the weight of what you are trying to communicate.
Their answers are often surprising. Often there is little understanding of what being fully present means.
Is asking the right questions enough, they ask? Others don’t want to seem overly emotional. Some don’t feel comfortable with the “intimacy.” And yes, there are some that confide that they just don’t care enough – or feel they just want people to do “what they are expected to do”.
The roots of this kind of communication stem from the still-pervasive but very old command and control mindset. I’ve told them what to do. People are paid to do a job. Why should they be coddled? Continue reading →
Recently, one of our clients, the president and CEO of a mid-size company, sent me an email after participating in a development group with his senior leadership team that was focused on collaboration and emotional intelligence.
His message went something like this, “ A situation came up at work where I had the opportunity to put into practice some of the information we discussed and realized how hard it is to change and break old habits.” He also asked a question that many clients ask – how do I remember to remember these things that we’re talking about?” Essentially the question becomes – how do I become more conscious of my intentions and my behavior?
It got me thinking about how easy it is to become captive to our internal narratives and reflexive in our behavior. The question compelled me to go deeper into what it is I do as a coach to support people to break through habituated, unproductive behavior
Two important influences on behavior are the areas of language and attention – how we describe our experience is indicative of the focus of our attention. As a coach one of my goals is to share my thoughts in a language that help clients focus their attention and makes connections with new ways of thinking that align with their desired outcomes.
Being able to hold on to new information and learning requires attention and consistency. Having a “container” for new information is essential. One of the most promising “tools” for increasing our capacity to strengthen habits of attention and consistency is mindfulness. Insights from neuroscience also have the potential to expand the container, while at the same time, bridging psychological explanations for human behavior with a scientific basis. According to Daniel Goleman, author of Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, “Strengthening attention helps you let go of stressful circumstances because the brain economizes our circuits. Being compelled to pay attention to your emotions is the opposite of being able to choose where you put your attention.” Continue reading →