Greensilkmuse's Blog

Empathic Connections

Posted in Discovery by greensilkmuse on March 26, 2010

People hire people.  They want to work with people they like and trust.  I’ve been fortunate enough to have forged really good working relationships with colleagues and clients.  They’ve been formed over time, as we’ve gotten to know each other on a personal level. 

So much of my work is conceptual and analytical that it is easy to focus on the business problem to solve, the results to achieve, the approach to take and miss out on connecting at a deeper level.  Whether running a meeting, delivering a workshop or facilitating a discussion, I want to be sure that commitments are kept… we accomplish what we set out to do and we keep within the allotted time constraints.   As important and valuable to those involved as this is, it is equally important to be mindful of and responsive to what people in each situation bring into the room with them.  The success of each interaction often depends on being attuned to the needs of others — beyond the matter at hand. 

The sooner someone feels they know you and are comfortable with you – the sooner you build trust and reduce the perceived risk of involving you in their lives – professional and personal.   It takes practice balancing the professional/business-focus with the personal/emotional awareness.  Improv and other theater techniques are one way of exercising these muscles.  Exploring the various roles we play and how we connect with others, depending on our mental models of those roles, helps bring awareness to how we show up.  We can practice really listening and being present.

I’ve been exploring a variety of ways to build connection – with individuals as well as with groups.  My latest foray into this side of my development involved a weekend conference in group psychotherapy. 

This experiential learning is not for everyone.  It was very intense and exhausting.  However, it produced some deep learning.   It takes a fair amount of courage to be the only non-therapist in a program of this nature.  If you can get past the unfamiliar terminology and the fact that your work, unlike that of other participants, is not to heal the emotionally wounded, you may come away with some impressive learning.  For me, it brought an appreciation for my own emotional attunement to others, the degree to which people operate more from the heart or through the head, and how to communicate in a way to put people at ease so that they let you in.

One experience, in particular, could only have happened in such a setting.   During a small group discussion, two women were talking to each other about what they needed and wanted from each other while the rest of us looked on.  As our eyes moved back and forth between the two of them (like watching a tennis match), I made eye contact a couple of times with a woman sitting directly across from me.  Each time our eyes met, I felt something in my gut – a tightening of sorts.  There was nothing in her demeanor to indicate that anything was going on for her other than that she was listening attentively to the discussion.  When they finished, she told one of the women that she had become angered by what she’d heard.  Apparently, she was really furious.  There was nothing about her body language or facial expression that even hinted at this.  I realized, at that moment, that it was coming through each time we made eye contact.   Now THAT is empathy.

In this sort of rarified setting – quiet, unstructured, without distraction – you can be really present and connect empathically with others.  How do you transition from the lab to life?  Each day brings with it lots to think about and to do.  We jump from one thing to the next, ticking off items on our “to do” list and adding more on.  Really connecting takes being present.  Bringing that presence to our daily interactions with others means slowing down just a bit, taking a moment to set aside the agenda, listening, feeling, and responding authentically to what is happening now.


One Response to 'Empathic Connections'

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  1. It’s free! I found t on

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