Yes, in a digital world I would love to see some de-robotization. A de-robotization of ourselves as human beings. Let’s allow ourselves to feel, to be vulnerable, to give a hand in helping someone, to simply offer without expecting anything in return, to just be.
Would people take advantage? Probably some will. But the big majority will appreciate it, will feel connected, and will pass kindness and compassion further. Wouldn’t be that a great contribution to the world?
We are social animals, and it’s not just a statement, nor an invitation to social events only. Loneliness it’s really harmful (impact of loneliness on brain health is comparable to smoking 15 cigarettes per day or being an alcoholic).
So why we make it so difficult to connect with each other? Are we really convinced that it’s safer for us to be emotionally distant? that people won’t hurt us if we stay away? that we won’t feel the pain in the world? that we won’t see the suffering around us?
I’m not sure I know the answer to all of these questions, but what I know for sure: by being emotionally distant, the only person we are hurting it’s ourselves. Our feelings are the ones we refuse to see, not of the world. The world, the “outside” it’s just a mirror of who we are inside. We naturally run away from negative emotions, but we cannot choose what to feel more intensively. By blocking our emotions, we also deprive ourselves of fully feeling joy, trust, real connections.
We take our approach everywhere, so work makes no exception. Now, even more, given the circumstances and the modern world, we are pushed to be more and more disconnected. On top of this, come fears like: if I show empathy or compassion, I cannot hold people accountable; if I’m vulnerable I’m weak; I have to be strong and tough for people to trust me, etc.
How do we actually connect?
⚡️ In 100 milliseconds we assess faces according to emotions conveyed and traits of face, which drives approach or avoidance reactions
⚡️ Cognitive empathy – while interacting with people, we build a mental model of what they are likely to do; “I understand you”
⚡️ Emotional empathy – our ability to share people’s emotions; “I feel you”
⚡️ Compassion – leads to a desire to take action to help easing the suffering of another person; “I want to help you”
Why does it matter?
➡️ Compassion and curiosity increase employees’ loyalty and trust. People are extremely sensitive to signs of trustworthiness in their leaders, and compassion increases our willingness to trust
➡️ Employees’ trust improves performance
➡️ In a positive and safe environment we foster creativity, innovation and learning by creating a culture of experimentation
➡️ Emotions are contagious – people naturally mirror leaders’ emotions, since they are in the spotlight
➡️ Compassion helps us improve positive feelings, can lower stress hormones, can bust immunity
Here are few suggestions for leaders, to better develop kindness inside organizations:
- Work on your self-awareness
By getting better at observing your own thoughts and feelings, you are more accurate in recognizing the feelings of others. Practices like mindfulness, meditation, body scan, can help developing self-awareness.
- Develop self-compassion
By being compassionate and non-judgmental with yourself, becomes easier to extend compassion to others. Treat yourself with kindness, we all have our setbacks, but most importantly is how we move forward from where we are now. Self-compassion is many times misunderstood with being too soft, not pushing yourself too hard. But in fact, it does exactly the opposite – it gives you the groundwork for resilience, for a growth mindset, which help best dealing with tough times and challenges.
- Make a habit of active listening
Be fully present while having a conversation, be curious about the other person, listen beyond content – notice feelings, body language, mood, openness. The communication is beyond facts and content of a message.
Also, be curious about the people in your team at personal level.
- Don’t compare suffering
When we are in pain, for us our own problems are the most important. Other’s suffering doesn’t have to be equal or higher to yours in order to matter. Show compassion to the person – it’s about alleviating the feeling of suffering, not about how that problem looks to you. We all have different experience and different coping mechanism.
- Ask how you can help
“How can I help?” it’s one of the most powerful questions you can ask someone. It shows first of all that you care, but also opens the door for connection and for the other person to tell you what he/ she needs in that moment. We often have the tendency to force our help the way we see fit, and afterwards get frustrated if the other person doesn’t accept it.
But helping it’s about your willingness to offer what the others need. And it doesn’t necessarily imply an action, sometimes help could mean just listening.
- Foster collaboration instead of competition
Better solutions come when expertise is combined, but this is highly dependent on people’s willingness to contribute and share success. Creating a psychological safety environment (where it’s safe to take risks, where people can learn from mistakes, where creativity it’s encouraged) leaves larger room for cooperation towards a common goal.
Offer recognition whenever you have the chance – it has to be personal, specific, close to the moment of a goal being met, unexpected.
- Be inclusive, value differences
We are naturally biased in-group vs out-group, depending on several factors (ethnicity, language, supported sport team, etc., extended even to “my” team vs “your” team), so we need to work on inclusion to encourage collaboration even more.
The best managers create leadership circles, or groups of peers from across the firm, to gain more perspective about problems and solutions.
- Lead by example
As I was mentioning earlier, emotions are contagious. Be the first to show kindness and others will follow you in your behavior.
One last piece of advice, pay attention to boundaries, avoid becoming an emotional sponge, you can offer your service, be supportive, you are not the one to solve people’s personal problems.
NeuroMindfulness Institute Coach Cetification