How to Be an Empathy Machine
Our next section is called How to Be an Empathy Machine. Obviously all of us in here are already really great at being empathetic. And we want to look at what empathy is. So, Sammy is actually going to help us out by tracking some things on the board for us and we're just going to crowdsource a conversation. So, we're going to ask each of you to raise your hands and share ideas, we're going to accept all ideas as we do, even if you're like, "I don't think based with what other people have said "but it's what I'm feeling "or what's coming up for me." So we'll share those things and we'll talk about them. So, we want to dig into what an empathetic person is and what an empathetic person does, and what they say and what they feel. Often when we talk about empathy, we sort of stop with, "I know that I need to make eye contact and nod, "and I need to just tell the person I'm facing, I see them. But there are so many more aspects to it and we often as we've talked about it in other classes, ...
we really value authenticity and we know when someone is being authentic with us. So we know when someone is really with us and really being empathetic and sometimes taking two minutes to really be with someone and be empathetic, can save hours of concern or worry or trouble in that relationship, whether it's a personal or whether it's work related. So we wanna pull apart and look at these different aspects of being empathetic. So, Sammy is going to write these down for us. What are some things that if you're being an empathetic person, or if you feel like someone is showing, demonstrating empathy to you, what are some things that an empathetic person might say? What would you expect someone to say? Yes, Gerald.
I hear you.
Great, I hear you.
What else, Elva.
Tell me more.
Aw, I like that. I hear you, tell me more, what else? Yeah, Gerald.
Sometimes, when a friend is like spilling their guts, I'll just say, I never like to say I understand, because I don't, and I never can truly, so I say, "I feel where you're coming from, "or I want to understand better."
Yeah, I want to understand.
Or I'm with you.
Yeah, I'm with you.
Or I'm on your side.
So just like saying--
You are an empathy machine.
I know, it's true, it's true. Yeah so I want to understand or I'm with you, something that like make sure they know that they're not alone and that you are with them, at least in whatever in this journey is yours to share with them. What else make someone say or what have people sad to you and it's okay to take a moment to think about it. Yeah, because it is, these are big questions. Oh yes, very nice.
It sounds something, it's like, it sounds very frustrating. It sounds very upsetting; it sounds very sad.
It sounds filling in the blank.
It sounds filling the blank.
Yeah, such a great, simple acknowledgment, right, of sort of the exercise that Gerald and Hylie did, right? It sounds like you're worried or it sounds hard; it sounds frustrating. What else might someone say or might you say, Elva?
How is that affecting you?
Oh, so more probing questions, yeah, how is that affecting you? I often say I don't, like they will not have right answers, right, but I know, I always appreciate hearing is just someone saying, "I'm sorry you're dealing with that "or I'm sorry you're going through that." Not, I'm sorry, as if I have done something but really, I'm sorry you're experiencing that. Some acknowledgment and validation that, that I am experiencing something can really feel important, yeah. What about you, Sammy, anything you want to add to this list?
Somebody said something to me the other day and I've said this before too that, I just want to give an example, it's a different tone, where it sometimes feels good when someone says, "That sucks."
Are those different versions of that that are maybe not as friendly for the cameras but yes. Like when someone just of kind of like emotes in a way, like uses language that is, is very kind of a... Not volatile but visceral, yeah.
Sometimes I say ouch.
Which is right along those lines of that sucks.
Usually those go together.
One of the things I know I have had to do, not necessarily in personal relationships but like as in as an educator and a teacher, as soon as people have come to me or maybe even in a managerial position, and I need to set a boundary, so sometimes what I'll say is, "I can be with you for five minutes." or, "I want to be with you, "but I need to talk about this after school "or whatever it is." So I think there's something too about setting clear boundaries in order to really be present with someone and I think we're allowed to do that in a way that feels healthy and happy, right. So I want to add that we somehow like we say what our boundaries are or what our needs are. Because if someone needs me for 20 minutes, I can't actually in the middle of a class do that for them. Right, but I definitely can do that after school or I can do this right now for five minutes but, and I really want to be with you, so I often frame it that way, if I really want to be with you, I really want to be able to give you my attention, and the only way I can do that is if we save it for after or after school. And yeah, Johnathan.
I think that's great because it's in contrast to in companies where they say, "I have a hard stop at 12:30," which has no empathy, and sounds like you're ready for that 12:30.
Yeah, so really can I frame it in a way that feels like I'm doing this because I want to be there for you, great. Let's move on, yeah. So what about what would an empathetic person do? So an empathetic person does what? What are somethings that might fall there? All right, Jonathan?
Tries to walk in other people's shoes.
So really tries to walk in their shoes and kind of have that understanding? Great, Atha?
Yeah, what else, Erina?
So mirroring, do you mean verbally or physically.
Verbally and physically like... If the person is being quiet and being in the same space but also mirroring as active listening like using the same words as the person use to describe whatever is happening.
Yeah, so really mirroring in different ways, yes. What else might you do, yes, Gerald.
Hugs, if that's appropriate.
If it's appropriate. Some people don't like to be hugged, right and there are situations where I'm in if you hug me, I'm going to start crying, right. Aw, you guys. Hug it out man, hug it out.
It's okay man.
It is okay, it's all okay.
It's like you're handwriting with your (mumbles) (laughter)
It's fine, but yeah hugs are even if something is just like closer proximity like whatever those physical boundaries are, because we do want to read that person's sense. If you're going in for a hug and I'm like, "That's not what happening right now," like, to sort of know that as well to appreciate the other person's boundaries and know what the physical needs are. Sometimes it is like holding a hand. Sometimes it is just sitting close to the person. Whatever those these physical needs might be, what else were you gong to say?
In a work environment, what I often say is like, "Do you need a hug or do you need to talk "about this more, or, "you know, I'll ask them, you know."
Asking about permission?
Ask for permission, yeah.
Anything else that you want to make sure we add to our what an empathetic person does list?
Well, it's kind of related to what you were saying. Setting bound, stating boundaries but finding time, you know, I think I can take this time. I wanted time, so finding time, and then the sort of bending forward or whatever just really not a hard focus but a soft, gentle focus.
I like the idea of finding time or giving someone that time like really giving someone that time in a way that feels good and healthy for both parties, right.
And being genuine.
Yeah, after that being authentic.
Because, yeah. It doesn't work if it's not.
Great, yeah, Hylie?
Stays present, puts away the technology, is not elsewhere, stays present.
Yeah, we're so good at this. (presenter laughs)
I'm ready to move onto the next one, are there final ones you'd like add to this? So these get a little more abstract. So I want us to know that and be okay with that. That some of these may feel like, "I'm not sure, I think this is right," because we're just really brainstorming and crowdsourcing. What might an empathetic person think when they're with you in empathy? What are some things that we're thinking? So I'm not thinking about my laundry and I'm not thinking about my email or whatever else I need to do. There are somethings you might want to actively be thinking if you want to be with someone in empathy.
How to make them more comfortable and in going deeper into the issue.
Great, so how can I make them more comfortable?
Creating comfort, safe sound.
Safe sound, creating comfort, safe sound. Yeah, however you right, it is correct. What else might you be thinking?
Identifying the feelings?
So really in your mind kind of identifying all their...
Yes, like that active listening lik, it sounds like very nervous, it's that person is very excited, the person is very upset.
So trying to identify.
Boring, nervous, or this is what is happening in my mind at that time. So that maybe I'm doing them as a standing board exercise while they are talking even if I'm not saying that, I might be thinking like, "Oh, they say they are angry "but it feels like they are hurt. "It seems like they're hurt." So maybe trying to identify the emotions or what's under there. Yeah, great, thank you.
I like to think about what... What might the person, the environment in which the person is experiencing this situation. For example, you know, their culture, their family culture, their friends situation, you know, thinking about what environment, what is the whole container for their experience of this because it's so different for me to experience something with whatever support I have as opposed to someone else whose, you know, challenged with being in a different country or having a different color skin or...
Right, all of those things that, right.
And being in the male tech-world as opposed to being in social work.
Absolutely, right, because we all have our own kind of journey that we've taken, so my journey might inform the experience differently. So maybe being able to try to understand, yeah, the whole experience is really important. And when you talk about this actually when we do this kind of work with organizations, it comes up a lot with women in the work environment and talking about how hard it can be to pull apart those experiences and I don't know if this is, if I'm being treated this way or this experience is happening because I'm a woman or because of this other person or because of my work and so it can be very hard when you start getting those layers that I was talking about. It can be hard to pull it part. So sometimes there's this opportunity to just dig in to this one thing and help someone find that pathway can be really helpful. Jonathan you want to say something?
Once you were talking about, and Atha just mentioned if you're talking about the whole experience, maybe where they might be in this journey at this point, in this larger experience.
Right. Yeah, so where they are right now in the larger experience. Yeah, what's just happened maybe what else is informing this experience? One of the things I have to remind myself of, 'cause I do, my brain works very quickly, is I sometimes have to be thinking, "Be here, right now. "Be here, right now." Like I have to give myself that mantra because I start trying to problem solve or I start to try and think about what else is going on for them, what's happening or why is this going on and what that person might need from me is for me not to think much but for me really just to think about just be here, be now. I can think about those other things later because I might get distracted and stop listening. So that something I need to do. Yes, Gerald.
Something similar to that, when someone is talking at me, I'll... Or talking to me, I'll spontaneously generate a lot of assumptions and a lot of conclusions and a lot of patterns and I just have to like erase them like it's on an erase board and just like erase them all and then say, "Let's just collect the data here and now, "or let's just hear them. Like You said, be present, be here.
Yes, so there is some work to be done of kind of also in your brain letting go of those assumptions that we're making. So maybe you're letting go of assumptions. Wonderful, should we move on, or are there any other ones we'd like to add here? And remember, these are not a... This is not a complete list. This is just us really starting to think about what it means to be an empathy machine. So our last one is feel. So what are you feeling when you are being an empathetic person or when someone is being empathetic for you to you? What should you be feeling? And again, these are more abstract right, it is? Gerald? (Gerald laughs)
I think you should be feeling patient and loving and caring but... (crowd laughing) but curve ball, There is a time horizon to that I think with all of us. So there's like a finite amount of patients and as long as you set that expectation. So I'm not trying to say like, I think you should be feeling like, sometimes friends come to you and they like wear masks in the world or at work and then they come to you and they open up, but you might have heard the same story like three or four times before.
And so if this is a repetitive thing, sometimes you might be feeling, I've had this before, you know, I need to maybe stir them to take action.
but how do we move this?
How do we move this forward?
Great, so, the estimate abut being patient and I think you said patient and understanding, caring but also, I think we could say time horizon like the... That there maybe that way you're like this has been going on for two years.
By the way that's also sci-fi book series; Time Horizon.
You should check it out. (crowd laughs)
I can't wait. Great, what else might an empathetic person be feeling?
Maybe fortunate that this other person trust them enough to share something.
Right, yeah. It is, I feel like sometimes we forget when we are the sharer, what it feels like when someone comes to you and trust you with something and says, "I just, I need your help," but I always feel so privileged and honored that someone trust me enough to do that, however, for me to go and share with someone, it feels harder; it feels more challenging. So that is a lovely thing to think about. Feeling fortunate that someone trust you. What else might you be feeling, Lorina?
Maybe the same feelings as the person who is sharing.
So maybe, yeah, maybe even something like muscle memory around that of what it was like when you felt this thing.
You know, yesterday, when...
The mirroring again?
Again, it's the mirroring like if you're sharing with me your joy of some good events that happened in your life, and I'm listening to you, look no matter what happens in my life, I am getting also excited and happy for you and the same thing as if someone tells me about some unpleasant things happening and worries and nervousness and frustration and hurt and I start feeling the worries and nervousness too because I'm sympathizing with that person and emphasizing.
Yes, so some mirroring, yeah, mirroring their feelings. And I think that's another place where we can say but, right. I know when I was much younger, now of course I'm more mature and excellent in all of this, but really would, I would sort of own those feelings. I would almost take there problems on to be my problems and I think that's part of that boundaries is that as knowing, I can mirror your feelings in that moment but I don't have to won what you're going through, right. So there is that sort of fine line, I think, between I'm with you, I' in it with you, and you feel sorrow or I feel sorrow, or you feel joy and I feel joy, but this isn't mine, right. So I'm going to hold it for a while and then not let it be mine to carry forever because I will, if I can, yeah.
Maybe there is a little freedom of self of your head, your ego or whatever, if you're truly being empathetic, you have to let go of your problems and your ego and
Yes and maybe letting go, maybe letting go a little bit, yeah. And these are things that I want to encourage those of you here and anybody at home also to just keep thinking about and ideate in around. Like, really, how do we... This is just our first attempt to making this list and I imagine as we go forward, there will be more ideas that come up for us. So, if you're at home and you'd like to try this, I encourage you to make this list, maybe add to this list even, and think about like what else could be here? What else can we be doing when we want to be empathetic with someone? When we want, really want to be with someone and understand them and think about the questions that you want to ask and the way that we want to be an empathetic person moving to the world. Is there anything you want to add before we move on.
No, thank you for sharing, we're going to leave that up because it may come in handy for some of the other lessons and exercises because it's essentially, yeah, kind of like a cliff note for what you need to do. So wonderful, let's move on.
Yeah, let's keep going. Thank you guys for sharing, thank you for sharing so openly and honestly, I appreciate it.