The reason you must be skilled in empathy is because the integrating stage of development requires you to cooperate with other people, so you can make a bigger difference in the world than you could on your own. Building connections is paramount to the integrating stage of development.
There are two components to empathy. First, the ability to imagine oneself in another’s place: experience and understand their feelings and desires, and be able to communicate your understanding of their situation back to them. Second, the ability to see into the soul of the other person: understand what is important to them and what makes them tick. When you are able to do this, the other person automatically responds, because they have the feeling of being seen and understood.Richard Barrett, Evolutionary Coaching
This isn’t just essential for collaborating with others at this level of consciousness in making a difference in the world but in communicating your work as a whole because it requires your ability to communicate the current reality (as the framing part of the four stages of speech) in such a way that it resonates with others and makes them feel seen, heard, and recognized.
Even more so, it makes other realize that this seemingly unnatural experience that they’re feeling is actually quite natural in nature, as others are experiencing it as well and it is a part of a larger natural process of growth and development.
If you are a man and you are operating in empathy mode, you have to fight your tendency to want to solve the problems of the other person. All you have to do is listen and communicate your understanding of the difficulties the other person is facing. Do not attempt to solve their problems, unless invited.Richard Barrett, Evolutionary Coaching
I’ve read this quote before but it’s meaning really didn’t sink in until now. Do you realize how liberating this statement is!? That’s because a conventional ego mindset is trying to be an “expert” and trying to have all of the solutions to all of the problems. Yet in doing so, it puts an impossibility upon yourself to have all of the answers to all of the questions. This was my greatest fear. “I don’t know everything, so how can I be an ‘expert’ in helping people with this?”
But the reality is that the only person who can truly know you is you. Thus it’s not about “leading” people, getting them to “follow” you, and them doing what they’re told (like the conventional narrative preaches). Rather it’s about helping people to follow themselves and see where that leads themselves. And when you make this mindset shift, you’re hilariously letting go of expectations and outcomes again, the very things that are standing in your way and making you feel stuck.
Actually this mirrors something Margaret Wheatley said in her book Turning To One Another in which she shared an experience of a black South African woman sharing her story and how she didn’t need people to “fix her” and solve her problems but just to listen to her, as listening brings it own healing to those who are heard.
When her turn came, she began to quietly tell a story from her horror–of how she had found her grandparents slaughtered in their village. Many of the women were Westerners, and in the presence of such pain they instinctively wanted to do something. They want to fix, to make it better, anything to remove the pain of this tragedy from such a young life. The young woman felt their compassion, but also felt them closing in. She put up her hands, as if to push back their desire to help. She said: “I don’t need you to fix me. I just need you to listen to me.”Margaret Wheatley, Turning To One Another
And in hearing this again, it has made me realize how I’ve approached others, including family members, in the past with regards to wanting to help them “fix their problems” as well with my knowledge of vertical development. But it’s not about doing that. It’s about them sharing their experiences and stories of what they’re going through and me listening to them, their experience, and reflecting back a recognition of it back to them, so that they feel heard and understood. In effect, it’s not about “saving others.” It’s about helping them to save (heal / integrate) themselves, as again, only they truly know themselves.