Empathy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. I preach this concept, but I don’t think I’m very good at practicing the art of empathy. Lately I’ve been thinking “ok, when you say something as a lesson or correction, you’re a buzzkill, and not very empathetic.” An example would be adding in my 2 cents worth “if I did it, I would add ‘x’ or do ‘y’” … hmmm … assuming it’s not my job or job related, no one cares. “If I made these deviled eggs, I would have added a bit more mustard and a pinch of tarragon” (“Steve, just shut up and eat or don’t eat the stupid eggs; no one asked for your critique of the recipe.”). I am the definition of a buzzkill.
“Yeesh” (I’m thinking). “How do I back up and not take the path of correcting everyone? Surely, this is not someone that people want to be around.” (Yet, I feel the need to correct “their, there, and they’re” … as well as dozens of other grammatical errors … AND pointing out the word “irregardless” is not a word). Empathy. Putting myself in the shoes of someone I just corrected and feeling their reaction (stupidity, indignation, shame) gives me pause. In the bigger scheme of picking your battles – does my need to point out the proper way do any good?
When offering help or guidance, perhaps the best rule of thumb is to understand and appreciate how your contribution is offered and accepted. A lot of times, we correct out of our own need to have order in the world. But that is like going over to someone’s house and doing their dishes* or straightening their pictures. To practice the art of empathy is to appreciate that not everyone has the same needs or desires, and perhaps, they have more important things to do than share my thoughts on what’s important. Empathy, grace, non-judgment – I’ll try to practice what I preach.
*Don’t even ask, I’m not coming over to clean your house.