When I was in Minneapolis, I checked ahead on my app to see how long it would take to get to a restaurant where I was meeting a friend for dinner. The answer: 20 minutes. Only when I went to leave for this engagement it was closer to the 5pm rush hour and the same app now said 38 minutes to travel the same distance. Yikes!

In my small town, it takes the same amount of time to go a mile no matter what time of day you are traveling. I never think about the time I am leaving or factor in traffic. “How long it takes” is a finite response, not variable. But in a big city, if I ask you “how long”, both 20 minutes and 40 minutes would be correct.

I think this simple example can serve as a model to help you express empathy. Instead of jumping in with an answer or thinking that you know what is correct, pause for a moment and consider the other person’s perspective. Are they leaving at Noon or 5pm? From a big city or a small town?

Everyone’s journey – whether literally or metaphorically – is influenced by their personal context.

 

About the Author leadership dots by dr. beth triplett

I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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