I’ve talked about how Empathy is so important in understanding client needs in the past, how Empathy is important to understand what a client really requires and needs. The other side of Empathy is understanding what your team requires.
Ultimately, Empathy results in Prosocial behaviour. Prosocial is a term I only recently came across. Let’s quickly review the definition from Wikipedia:
Prosocial behavior – “is a social behaviour that “benefit[s] other people or society as a whole, such as helping, sharing, donating, co-operating, and volunteering. Obeying the rules and conforming to socially accepted behaviors (such as stopping at a “Stop” sign or paying for groceries) are also regarded as prosocial behaviors. These actions may be motivated by empathy and by concern about the welfare and rights of others”
Ultimately this describes team behaviour and client service focus that we like to see in our project teams.
My country has always prided itself with having a good global conscience. But really until the last little while we have not shown ourselves to be empathetic at home. Let me call attention to a couple of recent news items. The tragedies of missing and murdered aboriginal women is the first item. For the longest time, the media and the majority of Canada have spent a lot of our efforts trying to state why this is someone else’s problem. We haven’t really empathized with the problem. We have hidden behind the fact that the situation was created by our ancestors and not us. In short, we felt comfortable doing nothing unless we were directly responsible. Myself included. 😦
Let’s review the definition of Empathy again:
Empathy – “is the capacity to understand or feel what another being (a human or non-human animal) is experiencing from within the other being’s frame of reference, i.e., the capacity to place oneself in another’s position.”
We haven’t truly put ourselves in the shoes of the aboriginal families and really felt their pain. Recently we are starting. Canada has become outraged that this is happening and everyone has demanded as a whole that this be fixed now. Finally we have exhibited Prosocial behaviour and demanded that this is fixed even when it will result in no personal gain. In some way we are demanding change that will even hurt us by taking money and attention away from other priorities. But we understand that it is the right thing to do. Maybe we are finally gaining some true Empathy.
A similar occurrence has happened recently with the Freedom Road that is finally being built to address a long-standing injustice committed against Shoal Lake #40 First Nations who were isolated by the city of Winnipeg building an aqueduct in 1915. How it took 100 years for our community to become Empathetic and outraged at this situation is unbelievable. But at least now it is being addressed. Finally we have become empathetic and are being Prosocial with our demands from our politicians.
We can even see this recently with our neighbours from the south. For the longest time the United States were content to also determine excuses as to why the number of murdered black men were not a problem. Everyone investigated the victim’s past history, looked in their behaviour that night, and also said much of the violence was black man on black man so certainly there is no racism issue. Finally the United States is demonstrating Prosocial behaviour and also demanding that something be done to address these issues.
The truth is until large groups are willing to be Prosocial and take a stand on issues, they will never be addressed.
In retrospect, the majority of Canada was not empathetic to the massacre at École Polytechnique. 28 people were injured, with 14 Canadian women losing their lives that day. We grieved and mourned, but we didn’t truly empathize and demand action. The best we could muster in the past was Sympathy. We certainly have been sympathetic in the past but finally it seems Canada is learning how to be empathetic.
I see an interesting similarity with the Muslim people and countries around the world in relation to terrorism. Although people are sympathetic with the impact of terrorism, we haven’t yet reached an Empathy with the victims and seen Prosocial behaviours. Once we see those Prosocial behaviours, I have no doubt that the situation will greatly improve. Even with the recent tragedies in Paris, there is could be more we could do.
And I don’t believe building walls like Mr Trump proposes is a Prosocial behaviour. If anything, that is an Antisocial behaviour. By Prosocial behaviour I mean that we would see people independently organizing instead of assuming that it is only the Police’s job to stop terrorism.
Pretty heady topic for Christmas Eve, but it does relate back to our teams. Our high performing teams always are the ones that manage themselves and work together for the greater good and not just for what they need to individually accomplish. We are getting there. Nice to see our world is as well. 🙂