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A Cup Of Empathy

Why did you spill the coffee?

You are holding a cup of coffee when someone comes along, startles you or bumps into you or mistakenly shakes your arm.

You spill your coffee.

Q.> "Why did you spill the coffee?"

A.> "Because that person bumped into me."

The actual reason you spilled coffee was because there was coffee in your cup. Had there been tea in the cup, you would have spilled tea. In other words, whatever is inside the cup is what will spill out if rattled enough to warrant spillage.

Life happens. Life shakes us up sometimes. There are times when it rattles us pretty hard, yet, we cope pretty well, and those are the times when there is little or even no spillage. Other times, the rattling is so intense that whatever is inside of us spills out to whomever and whatever is in our path.

You may remember from one of my earlier blog-posts entitled Ah-Ha! Wherever You Go, There You Are, that one of the big takeaways from this post was that our behaviors and actions come from our thoughts.

Here's an example of this easy concept:


Sally is a customer service rep at a manufacturing firm. Her teenage son called her at work one day before lunch and rattled her with an argumentative disagreement, and ended the conversation by hanging up the phone on her angrily.

She couldn't get it all out of her mind, she just couldn't shift her focus away from that interaction with her son and how it made her feel. She kept her attention and focus on that single moment in her day for the remainder of the afternoon in a downward spiral.

It fermented inside of her all afternoon until about 4:35pm when a top customer calls to check on their order and Sally's energy, still focused on the argument with her son, spilled out all over her interaction with this top customer.

The next morning, Sally was called to the boss' office and received a direct coaching about the negative comments she received for delivering poor customer service to their top customer on the call the previous afternoon.

I've shared this image <below> before, in other blog-posts, and I think it's powerful enough to share again. The emotional guidance scale allows us to follow along and pay attention to where we focus our emotions and our energy.

Review this and take a moment to ask yourself:

Q.> Where does my focus tend to gravitate each day and what is it doing to enrich my life?

  • The national or local news? YouTube? Twitter?

  • Facebook? Instagram?

  • Covid-19 statistics? Your n0-mask wearing neighbors?

  • Your mask-wearing neighbors?

  • Riot footage? Corrupt politics?

  • Anger, Bitterness, Defensiveness and Retaliation?

  • Economic crisis reports? Losses? Death? Fear?

Or . . .

  • Gratitude? Meditation? Memories? Nostalgia?

  • Joy, Gratefulness, Peace and Humility?

  • Family? Friends? Showing your love?

  • Going out of my way for them? Offering my time?

  • The beauty of nature? Being outdoors? My fitness/my health?

  • Volunteering? Offering donations?

  • Enriching my partner's life? Love?

Recently, I heard one of my favorite authors and speakers, Simon Sinek, say the following in an online forum with John Maxwell here. I found this broadcast to be powerful.

We can make demands of our leaders but at the end of the day we can only be responsible for ourselves. We cannot change our leaders. We can change ourselves.

I hear people talking about, "the system is broken!"

There's no mythical system, the system is us. It's our society as a collection of different individuals and whatever the balance of behavior is from those individuals is the "system" you get.

So, it starts at home. It starts with us.

It is our individual behavior and individual choices, which, in the end, advances the global collection and the balance of behavior that makes up society. So, in conjunction with his message, consider more focus around working out your own mental wellness and where you're personally focusing your own personal energy and attention.

We all tend (myself included) to get wrapped up in our physical wellness. How many reps we can complete and how many calories should we eat. Our mental wellness often takes a side-seat to the focus we have on our physical being. With this ever-changing COVID-19 landscape, now mostly focused on the physical wellness of our self and others around us, it is the perfect time to work hard at balancing both physical and mental wellness.

Simon Sinek

Simon goes on further . . .

So, we want to change this "system," this elephant (the only way to eat an elephant is one mouthful at a time) so we need to set ourselves on a course to become better listeners ourselves.

As a Human Resources Executive, the following, I must admit, is my favorite part...

There's a difference between listening and hearing.

Hearing is understanding the words that are said to you, listening is trying to get to the meaning of the words that are said to you with an appreciation that sometimes people say the wrong thing, they say what they're trying to say badly, sometimes emotions are involved, sometimes they get flustered.

It's not for us to take their words personally or even pick apart but to rather try and show up with curiosity and to really try to understand the meaning.

What I'm describing is empathy. We show up with empathy, that's all this is.

Whatever we put in our cup is what spills over when life shakes things up.

Life provides the cup, we make the choices and decisions that fill it.

"We all know what it feels like to feel heard. Listening is the practice that the other person will feel heard."

Do your part. Change the world.

Enter and exit every conversation with a cup of empathy. ❤️


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