As we continue another writing on influence, one important reminder is that whether we care to admit it or not, we all have influence on those closest to us. Our influence may have a positive or negative impact, or it simply maybe dismissed through apathy or pre-judgment by the receiver.
Here is a quick summary of the past few writings on the pathway to positive influence:
Part # 1 Intent: Our intent is aligned with a desire to help, to serve, and to give to others. We can effectively open the door to be a positive influence on others when we realize our efforts are not about “me” and my own personal gain, but they are about helping you.
Part #2 Listening: We need to increase our focus on listening and lessen our efforts on responding. We don’t need to be brilliant to listen, we just need to care. Simply put down the screen and listen.
In part #3 of this message, we focus on the importance of empathy and trying to “walk in the shoes” of another in order to have a positive influence. Empathy is about seeing experiences from the lens of others, understanding their perspective, and feeling what they feel.
We all don’t see the world as it is, we see the world from our own unique perspective.
If I were to ask you what the American flag means to you, I would hear a multitude of responses. They would all be responses based on your lens of experience, not mine. Empathy helps me understand your response a little better.
If I were to ask you about the rising rates, across all age groups, of mental illness in our country, I would hear a multitude of responses and a different perspective from:
- Those who personally struggle with depression, anxiety, etc.
- Sons and daughters who had a parent struggle with mental health and perhaps covered it with alcohol or drugs.
- Parents who struggled to help a child walk through depression.
- Children who lost a parent to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Adult children caring for a parent with dementia or Alzheimer’s.
- Those who have not been directly and personally impacted by mental illness.
Empathy helps me expand my ability to see what you see, understand you better, and feel what you feel.
Below are a few additional thoughts to encourage all of us to focus on empathy as an important step along the pathway to having a positive influence on others:
- After ensuring our physical survival, a great human need is to be understood, validated, and accepted for who we are today. Empathy helps us open the door to meet this need of those around us.
- Instead of projecting our own story on others and making assumptions and interpretations about others, empathy helps us get into the heart and soul of those around us.
- Empathy is very difficult to achieve over a text message. Empathy is most embraced when we listen not just with our ears but focus our eyes, heart, and physical presence with another.
When we start with our intent to help, listen to others, and focus on empathy, we build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity to have a positive influence on those we care about most.