Balancing Act: The Newsletter (No. 189, May 2015)
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Empathy is the understanding of another's condition. Sympathy is the expression of pity or sorrow for that condition. The latter often leads to commiseration because the other person has also experienced or is experiencing the identical problem.
I want an empathetic counselor or coach or therapist. I don't want sympathy. I need understanding that will lead to ideas for resolution and improvement, not a "woe is us" wallowing. Victimization is always sympathetic. It's the agreement that we have no power, others control our fate, it's not our fault, we are helpless. Conversely, empathy allows for improvement, new ideas, self-mastery, and personal accountability.
However, there is a false empathy. Just this morning, a hotel manager told me on the phone that he understood my frustration over a continuing inconvenience in a very expensive suite. I told him that he did not understand it, because if he did, I wouldn't still be experiencing it. He was practicing "customer service 101," some human resources class which teaches employees to tell the customer that they are "understood."
I remember the old Seinfeld routine, where they gave away his rental car. "But I had a reservation," he told the clerk. "I know what a reservation is," she replied. "Apparently you don't," said the satirical Seinfeld.
For empathy to be sincere, one must demonstrate that he or she truly understands the extent of the other's unhappiness, misfortune, or discontent, and provide relevant actions and suggestions to improve the situation. "We're working on it" (the hotel manager's response) is totally insufficient. He needed to say "We can move you to another suite," or "We are paying for the prior day," or something similar. Whether or not I accepted the offer is a different story. His offer would have been empathetic.
What are you doing to truly understand and improve your relationships? Telling someone they were certainly treated poorly (because you once were in similar situations) is a terrible response (validating their feelings of helplessness) as compared to telling them how they can take control and escape the predicament.
Do you understand me?
The human condition: Procrastinating
"Procrastination" is the act of postponing. It is the behavior of people who choose not to take immediate action.
Are we good so far, or do you want to think about that before reading on?!
Everyone procrastinates, because every so often we are rewarded for doing so. I hate carrying boxes up and down stairs, but if I wait long enough my wife will have the cleaning crew do it. I used to wait until my son visited from school a couple of times a semester, but my wife was afraid he'd stop coming home altogether.
My trash basket sometimes overflows because I keep balancing more papers and debris rather than just emptying it, but then, of course, it's even harder to empty. But my wife stopped doing it, which has taught me to do it myself because the dogs start playing with the overflow if I don't.
We procrastinate out of sloth (I don't want to get up); out of fear (what if it's not good enough); out of lack of consequences (they won't do anything about it); out of ignorance (I didn't know there was a financial penalty after that date). We all do it, it's not a matter of obliterating the habit, it's a matter of priority.
It's one thing not to go to the post office because you hate the lines, yet you finally have to grit your teeth to send the certified mail and spend a half-hour facing unmotivated clerks. But it's another to wait until Christmas eve and not buy your spouse a really good present, or find the stores are sold out of the stuff you had promised your kids.
I'm suggesting that it's not "procrastination" so much, per se, that we must attack, but the poor priority setting that underlies it. Whether or not you pull the weeds today won't destroy your garden, but not making the proper reservations can destroy your vacation. You can get away with being late on a report, but not your taxes.
You'd be surprised at the amount of mail I get praising my suggestions here—months after they first appear, when some people finally get around to them. That means, if really useful, they've denied themselves the application for quite some time.
I've never procrastinated about eating the lobster that I ordered. We ought to treat our priorities in life the same way, as a great meal that can spoil if you just let it sit.
I sent a new teleconference offering to my crack technical team and asked that they post it on my site for purchase. I included the satirical comment that "slides could be purchased for an extra $15." It's a teleconference, there are no slides.
However, the aforementioned crack technical team not only posted this verbatim, but provided an option in my shopping cart to order the slides for $15. And before I could get to them to remove it, two people had ordered them!
My next offering will be invisible coaching. It's $2,000, but there's zero time investment.
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If you're not fulfilled unless you get a "deal" you'll lead a very frustrating life. Become successful and be motivated by the reality that you don't need a deal.