Close your eyes and think about the last time you achieved a professional milestone. The new job. The promotion. The moment you quit your current job to go out on your own. Heck, even early retirement!
Think about how you felt in that moment. The sense of accomplishment, achievement, perhaps self-validation that you were able to do something awesome. It’s an amazing feeling. I remember that feeling the day I launched EQimproved.com earlier this year. I was so excited to finally say I did something that was 100% mine and educate people on a topic I care deeply about.
What really struck me was the response from my friends, family and colleagues. People I hadn’t heard from in years reached out with encouraging messages. A great example is Chris Howe. Chris and I worked together seven years ago. While he and I emailed each other from time to time, for the most part we hadn’t really chatted in years. His message to me:
“Great initiative and apt for these divisive times we live in. I wish you all the success that’s in store for you.” Chris was happy for my happiness and I’ll never forget that. His kind gesture made me feel so great.
Now think about a time when you were feeling really sad. That time when your loved one was very sick or passed away. The despair, emptiness and perhaps worst of all, loneliness.
Think of the people around you, both physically and virtually. The ones who may not have been as close to the person you’re grieving, but you could sense that they were just as sad as you were.
My wife Leora embodies this. She sometimes jokes that she has ‘a lot of feelings’ but the reality is she feels her friends and family’s pain when they’re going through hard times. When my Nana and Aunt Nancy passed away over the past seven months, Leora felt my pain and my family’s pain.
This is what empathy means to me. The ability to feel how someone else feels. Chris and Leora have recently demonstrated this as well as anyone I know.
Now think of how you’ve felt the last time your friend, family member or colleague has experienced happiness or sadness. What was your first emotion? How did you react? If you and this person switched positions, how would you have felt if they reacted how you did? And if you’re not satisfied, what will you do now?