Empathy Journal #1: One Lesson I Learned About Biases

People are full of biases.

Yesterday I had a mental crash on how many times I fall in confirmation bias.

Stay away from judgment, and you will live happier.

Here is what happened:


The background

Yesterday I called a colleague, it was his birthday, and I was sure he was upset.

He is 70, and today I know he suffers less recognition of his value. He is a cultural enabler, a demanding role in manufacturing fast business.

There was an exchange via email. The team was trying to make a necessary appointment.

My man said he would be on vacation on those dates, and he’d preferred another date.

His boss said: “Hey, we can’t defer too much. Just in case, you will participate remotely”.

It was 7.20 pm on his birthday.


Here comes my assumption

At 7.26 pm, he answered: “That’s right, I’ll participate remotely. Excellent.”

What I’d have to think?

His boss is often rude and doesn’t pay great attention to people’s feelings.

So I judged the situation like: “Oh, he feels bad on his birthday.”

I wrote down a “don’t feel like this”.

But luckily, I applied the principle of Empathy from Theresa Wiseman:” Staying out of Judgement,” and I didn’t send it.

Graphic by the author

Here’s what I did:


Ask

I called him and asked, “How are you doing?”

He answered breathlessly but not angry: “I’m preparing. Can we talk about tomorrow?”

Was it a confirmation?

“Ah, I see you are in a hurry. I don’t want to bother you. I just verified….”

He interrupted me with a plain voice: “Oh, yes, I talked with him.”

But I noticed something wrong: “What are you talking about?”


Stay away from judgment.

He continued: “Yes, what you asked me this evening about….”

The situation was clearer: I emailed him to talk about an associate. He was talking about this.

I asked again about the conversation with his boss.

He told me his answer was brief because he was preparing for the birthday dinner. He was thinking of nothing about the email.

That’s it.


Lesson learned

Stay away from early judgment.

Intuition is good, but the cause could be so various that it’s better to go deeper before finding the right solution.

Ah, I was to make a more significant mistake.

NEVER say, “don’t feel like this”.

Why? Sympathy is anti-empathic.

Empathy 101. The effective 4-steps method to feel with people.


Cover photo by Sarah Kilian on Unsplash

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