Finding Similarities and Offering Compassion

This is part 6 of an 8-part series focusing on Marc Lesser’s latest book, Seven Practices of a Mindful Leader. If you missed part 1-5, check them out here. Before we start, please take a moment and sign up for my newsletter.

Last week we looked inward at our own pain and how we can better connect with it to better understand why we are who we are. This week we are looking closer at how we make more mindful responses in our interactions with other people. The fifth practice of a mindful leader discussed by Lesser is, “connect with the pain of others.”

Often when we talk about “pain” at work we are talking about emotional unease. Lesser refers to “pain” in this practice as, “the universal experience of discomfort and loss.” It could be a loss of influence, decision-making authority, or power. It could be the loss of a relationship as we move throughout our careers or even the loss of confidence as the direction of our work changes.

The reality, of course, is that everything constantly changes. So we are always gaining and losing. The pain that comes from loss is always present and we all fall into our preferred mode of response whether we are noticing it or not.

Lesser shares Dr. John Gottman’s ideas around how we often avoid connecting to other people’s pain. Gottman’s context is personal relationships and marriages, but we probably tend to drift toward one of these behaviors in the workplace as well. They are: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. I’ll have to spend more time thinking about this one, but my gut tells me I’m a stonewaller.

Another practice Lesser gives us to help connect to the pain of others is “seeing similarities and offering kindness.” As you can see in the images below, this set of statements can be delivered in person with a partner or in your head. The value in the exercise is the building of a habit. If we can learn to start looking at others in our lives through a lens of similarities we can then connect on a level that allows us to serve those we spend our time with. Even spending five minutes thinking through these statements before an interaction with someone will help us engage in that interaction as a more mindful leader.

This idea of connecting with the pain of others really comes down to understanding who they are and getting past the boxes that titles, reputations, and assumptions/stereotypes put us in. It’s about understanding that we all have anxiety and we all deal with imposter syndrome. Yet we display our worry in vastly different ways. And as a mindful leader the expectation is that we breathe and remember that just because someone expresses their anxiety differently than us, we must pause before making an appropriate response.

Next week we learn the importance of the seventh practice – Depend on Others. That’s right. We shouldn’t do everything and asking for help is not a weakness, but rather a strength! Who would have thunk it?

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