Without Empathy, We’re Ultimately Hurting Ourselves


With all this ‘progress’ and technology, it feels like we are losing the fine art of empathy. And I have a hunch that we’re not only hurting others, we’re ultimately hurting ourselves in the long run.

It used to be that you helped out neighbors, not just because it was the right thing to do, but because you knew – at some point – you’d need to lean on them too. You just KNEW you’d be in the same shoes. Your dog ran away, and your neighbor would watch your kids, while you went looking for Spot. You’d trade keys for the time you inevitably lost your own set. You’d water their plants while they went on vacation and they’d get your mail when you were out of town.

There was a strong church community too. People supported each other. Not just because they were good “church going” folks … this was self-preservation, people.

Now our support systems are often business networks and social networks, and it can feel less accountable and personal, but this is – for better or for worse – the world we’ve evolved to. And yet, we aren’t holding ourselves to the same standard anymore.

What is empathy exactly? It is the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions. It’s how humans connect authentically.

We’re brilliant creatures, and even without knowing it, we can sniff out ulterior motives. So I’m suggesting we genuinely be of service, to others when we can. Because one day, you might need them too. Win Win!

I’ve had two recent experiences where “salespeople” got so blinded by their own objectives that they were no longer listening to what I –the customer – wanted, and even in some cases, presumed to tell me what I wanted. I assume, this was because they were laser focused on what THEY wanted. But end of the day, isn’t THE SALE what they want? Well, they didn’t, in fact, get the sale. And I left feeling terrible. Lose lose!

Example 1:
I went to Bloomingdales in Los Angeles, and the salesperson was very aggressive, but that’s okay. I was glad to have someone pull dresses for me, and to assist. The big breakdown came when I began telling her what I was looking for. I told her I needed a dress for a wedding … fairly formal and I wanted it to have a lot of color and/or flare because the event was in Mexico. She brought me dresses in black or drab colors like olive. I then held one up, and said I wanted more sparkle/pizzazz.

Her response was (I shit you not!)… “No, you don’t”

Wait, what? Come again?

I responded back firmly with “I’m the customer, and I know what I want, so yes, that is what I want”.

You can imagine that NO sales transaction was completed that day between her and me. And she actually high-tailed it from my dressing room without another word, or further assistance. I could have been her next biggest client or maybe even a friend. Or someone who’d hire her to work on my sales team, paying her double? Who knows. She didn’t. And she probably doesn’t recognize her missed opportunity.

Example 2:
I was at a Facial appointment in Portland. The esthetician asked me about my skin care routine at night. She knows I have a toddler, so presumably would understand that I don’t have a lot of time or energy for a long, detailed skin care regimen. But regardless, I let her know my exact emotional bandwidth, meaning not much, for beauty regimes. And she responded with “It doesn’t take THAT much time, come on. Surely you can manage those 3 steps.”

No, I really can’t. Nor do I want to, but thanks for the condescension.

That’s what I pay for when I drop 150 bucks on a facial, these days? When I’m in that chair, what I want is a little bit of empathy, maybe even some therapy. But at least a facial, and a simple solution to a minimal skin care regimen.

I responded back, probably more testily than I wanted, “your child is a grown woman now, so you might not remember how taxing it is to have a toddler. I’m at a stage in my life, where I am pairing down, looking to simplify in places where I can. And that includes my beauty regimen.”

I’m also at a stage in my life that I know what I want, and I’m 1) not afraid to ask for it and 2) stand in my integrity when someone tries to knock me out of it with shaming, Belittling, or ridiculing. What the fuck? How does that serve her? Has shaming ever worked, long term? How bout you dig in with some empathy?

Walk in my shoes for a few steps, then kindly respond based on what you’ve seen. I might just buy that dress from you, or buy into your 3 part skin care regimen.

Instead, you’ve lost me as a customer, and will make no future sales from me. There will be no emergency child care or dog walking services offered, like with neighbors of yesteryear. And we’re certainly not gonna be friends.

And we both stop counting on each other as people. Lose Lose.
If this happens, then we’ll lose connection to others (which is vitally important to our inner happiness as humans) AND the ability to succeed as an individual (also crucial to our happiness as humans)?

Be of Service.
Expect nothing in return.
And call on folks when you truly need them.
At that point, they’ll be glad to support you in kind.

PS: I seriously can’t make this stuff up: as soon as I finished typing this blog, someone knocked on my door, and asked if I’d jump their giant industrial sized truck (!!), which had died on the street during a delivery. My first reaction was, “I don’t have jumper cables.” (which may or may not be true, by the way. I am unsure!). He said he had some, no problem. I had no good reason NOT to help, other than inconvenience cloaked in phony fear of a strange man.

Guess what…I ponied up and gave that truck a jump. And he was on his way in no time. And he couldn’t have been more thankful. Maybe the next time I need my car jumped, a stranger will allow themselves to be inconvenienced on my behalf.

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