BUT FIRST, LISTEN
EMPATHY + RELATIONSHIPS
Practicing a mindset of Stoic Empathy allows you to endure hardship gracefully while maintaining healthy emotional connections with yourself and others.
When I was a young girl, my father used to read me the poem If by Rudyard Kipling, just as his father used to read it to him. The poem was framed above my little bed and was illustrated with all my favorite African animals — a giraffe, an elephant, a lion, a zebra.
After receiving heartbreaking news from the doctor a few weeks ago, I found myself Googling Kipling in need of his poem’s wisdom. The beginning of the second stanza stood out to me:
How do we stay grounded in times of crisis? When everything is shifting beneath us, keeping ourselves calm and connected is one of the biggest challenges that we face in life.
A while back I went to hear a talk by the esteemed psychic Laura Day. She’s authored a legion of best-selling books, including Practical Intuition, and is employed by companies and governments around the world to help intuit the future. She’s tall and striking and has an unmistakable mystique about her. I was in awe of her energy.
After her talk concluded, she walked by me in the theater, stopped, put her hand on my forehead and said, “You my dear, you need to become more grounded.”
Giving advice rarely helps people, instead it makes them defensive and self-doubting. Instead we need to learn how to provide real support to those we care about.
Change is tough.
Life may be in a constant state of flux, but when it comes to ourselves, our lives, our relationships, and our habits, change can be one of the hardest things to pull off. Plenty of people out there — spouses especially — will tell you that humans fundamentally can’t change or at least won’t change. As the old adage goes, “A leopard can’t change his spots.”
I, for one, don’t subscribe to this logic.
You cannot find fulfillment without first knowing what fulfillment looks like to you.
You cannot show empathy and compassion to others without first showing empathy and compassion to yourself.
You cannot correctly interpret what you sense in the external world without first correctly sensing what lies in your internal world.
Self-wisdom is the prerequisite to worldly wisdom.
It’s not about denying your innate exposure, it’s about leveraging it for success.
There is no denying that by nature we are vulnerable. As human beings and social creatures, we are naturally open to attack and capable of being hurt. But it is also true that by nature we don’t want to be attacked or hurt. As a result we find we’re always doing all we can to protect ourselves and hide what we see as our weakness.
Herein lies the vulnerability paradox. To be innately vulnerable while denying our vulnerability seems to be what is at the heart of being human, and more so, of being a leader.
The more we deny our vulnerability, the less influence we have on the world, the people around us, and ourselves. The more we hide away from what makes us feel uncomfortable, the less fulfillment and connection we experience.