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Empathy And The Feeling Function – Fueling Connection In An Isolating World

Empathy and the Feeling Function – Fueling Connection in an Isolating World

A side of humanity that has been in a deep sleep is surfacing. Jungian psychology would say it’s the emergence of an archetype (a universal symbol or image, or pattern that endures over time) from the collective unconscious – it’s an awakening of sorts. This something, that has not always been present in our organizations, culture, and even within in our families, is now palpable – and in this country, which honors and rewards expressions of tough love, hard logic, masculine strength, materialism, the pursuit of wealth, profit and the bottom line.

Paradoxically, through the disorientation, pain and grief of the COVID-19 dis-ease, we are cultivating the opposite. Through forced isolation, we are craving, and creating, more social togetherness than ever.

Love, care and connected-ness of the human spirit are emerging in so many ways. We are protecting the vulnerable and each other. We are exercising patience in our teams and organizations as we try out new ways of working. We are expanding our social networks in novel and creative ways. En-mass, we are showing love and appreciation for those on the front lines working to save lives. And in our families, we are experiencing gratefulness while learning to more thoughtfully value and honor each other.

In real time, we are witnessing evidence for what social science has been telling us for several years – we are hard wired for social connection, it’s in our brains. Quite simply, we feel better and operate more effectively when we are connected with one another – in any situation.

Two aspects of human nature which are fundamental components for successful interpersonal relationships – Empathy (Emotional Intelligence) recognizing and appreciating how others feel, and the Feeling Function (Psychological Type) a mental or cognitive process that helps us to evaluate those feeling and decide what to do with them – are operating seamlessly behind the scenes to foster what we are witnessing.

Here’s how Empathy and Feeling are working together:

  • We feel empathy for the social isolation of our family and friends, so we decide to set up Zoom cocktail parties or dance in the streets, or call people more than normal by phone to see how they are doing
  • We feel empathy for the vulnerability and sense the helplessness of our elderly, so we decide to support them by doing their shopping or visiting them from outside their windows
  • We feel empathy for our front line medical professionals and their hardships, so we show our appreciation by clapping for them on our balconies every evening at the same time.

Forced isolation is compelling us to tap into these tools of connection so that we can keep going to live our lives within the boundaries of our new (albeit temporary) normal. As individuals, and collectively, we are using these skills whether we know it or not – and it is coming pretty easily to most of us, even in the business world. Leaders are grappling with protecting and caring for remote workers in ways that foster healthy interpersonal dynamics in this time of crisis. Companies are changing their processes to produce equipment to keep us safe – like sanitizer, masks and ventilators. Workers are still dedicated to serve the public in grocery stores and gas stations. And hospital systems are striving to do no harm despite their lack of resources.

Unfortunately, in more normal times, Empathy and the language of the Feeling Function are not “must haves” within corporate teams. Empathy and Feeling are not embedded within organizational culture. It is not usually desirable at work to express feelings, and leaders don’t tend to invest time time in creating interpersonal connection, despite the plethora of research on the key role of trust and Psychological Safety for team success.

As we reorient to the new normal of physical distancing, we have the rare opportunity to reflect upon our experiences as they are happening. We can learn to tap into the joy of connection that is emerging. We can take our experiences along with us when the world opens up again. As individuals, team members and leaders, we can internalize the feelings of well being that come from being connected, and with deeper insight, take with us the knowledge, that when people feel connected to one another they are happier, and perform better – it’s a given.

Can we bank on leaders and teams within organizations to remember how easy it was to be vulnerable in harder times?  Is it too much too hope that the struggles of today and how we responded, can translate to organizational crises and change, even if on a smaller scale? Will we see the emergence of an integration of the opposites between the bottom line and healthy interpersonal relationships? Will we see a shift from the one-sidedness of organizational focus to a more integrated approach to creating and building both an effective, and healthy workforce? Will we be able to tap into the pain that we are now feeling? Will the recall of our current emotional states fuel our actions and our behaviors in the future?

One thing we can know for certain from this experience is that we are inextricably connected. And we are seeing and feeling the net effects of nurturing connection – helping us to cope, find sanity, and even some joy. We all have a choice. Let’s make a pact to bring forward a new era of kindness, love and acceptance wherever we find ourselves next.

 

Cindy Paris is the President and Founder of the People Skills Group, a company dedicated to helping people work better together. She uses Emotional Intelligence and Psychological Type as foundational tools for facilitating teams and leaders to establish Psychological Safety in the workplace. For more information about how The People Skills Group can help your team or organization, contact her at cindy@thepeopleskillsgroup.com.

This Post Has 3 Comments
  1. Omg! So beautiful and perceptive. Let’s hope we can all learn from this experience and make change for better understanding of each other and compassion. Let’s try to make it so it doesn’t take a crisis to bring out the best in humanity but rather it becomes our status quo.

  2. Love your insights, Cindy. There are so many lessons to be learned as we move through this pandemic–if leaders are open to them, accept them and apply them when we emerge on the other side. Thank you.

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