Remembering What You Know
Recently I ran into a friend who sheepishly asked me if I had any tips that might help him express or feel empathy, honestly I was flummoxed. No one has ever asked me how to get in touch with their empathy, I’ve heard the opposite quite a few times, but to actually tell me that he didn’t think he had any empathy was a bit shocking
We chatted for a few minutes and I asked him if he’s always felt this way, he replied, “no.” That answer immediately lifted the gray cloud from atop my head and I suggested it might be the prolonged stress from work and all the distractions that we all experience on a daily basis. “Maybe,” I said “ you’ve got too much noise in your life, and maybe you can’t access what you already know.” “Ok” he said, “what can I do to get back in touch with my feeling of empathy?”
Remembering What We Know may seem a bit out in left field but I assure you it’s as common as a blue sky, in other words we all have talents and memories we aren’t able to tap into when we need them.“Maybe,” I said “ you’ve got too much noise in your life. Click To Tweet
Our Brain Gets Distracted
One of our brain’s main functions is efficiency and when the brain is trying to be efficient it cuts out immediate access to the things we know and paints the world in a far simpler way to accomplish things as efficiently as possible. Our brain in effect creates a reality that’s simple for us to understand and navigate and a reality that is not necessarily close to the reality that the others in our group are creating in their own minds. As we hear people talking we’re auto filtering what they’re saying through not just our known assumptions but also through brain efficiency filters. And let’s not forget our assumption filters we are not even aware of.
To get around and past these filters we sometimes need to have cues and cheat sheets readily available to remind us not to take a shortcut in this stitution. A plain rubber band around our wrists can help us focus on what we want to say, help us tap into what it is we want to accomplish, such as being aware of our assumptions.
Being mindful of the needs of a group of individuals sitting across from us is difficult enough, but add to the process our own brain filtering for efficiency, and it all can become maddening. Changing how we approach working within a group can at times resemble learning to ride a bicycle upside down in the middle of a lake. But unlike the impossible bicycle task learning to know what you know can be enhanced with mindfulness.
Take a Breath In Each Moment
It’s not a natural thing for your brain to agree with you when you say to yourself “okay I’ll put my assumptions aside.” There are no buttons you can push that magically give you access to becoming a better listener or pump up your empathy muscles.
Each of us knows more than we remember and realizing this can be quite frustrating. Think about all the times you’ve heard someone say “I forgot I knew that” or “I couldn’t access the memory when I needed it.” I’m pretty sure you’ve found yourself in the same pickle from time to time, that is unless you have complete access to everything you know when you need it…
I’ve found tuning into my breathing when I’m in any type of group meeting helps slow down what I call my Auto Brain, and allows me to be much more conscious of each moment which of course leads to being more conscious of others sitting around the table and what they are expressing. The more time you spend with some type of a mindfulness practice the easier it will become to access your moment to moment awareness and tap into what you already know.Working within a group can at times resemble learning to ride a bicycle upside down in the middle of a lake. Click To Tweet
5 Tangible Mind-Taming Cues
- Wearing a rubber band around your wrist
- Holding 4 or 5 note cards
- Having ready access to relevant infographics
- Placing a colored dot in front of you as a reminder to breathe
- Having each person in the group wear a button
I personally like the idea of each person wearing a button (2 inches is good). Each time you look at a person in the group and see the button you get a cue to breathe and come back to the moment of active listening. In mindfulness we are often reminded to tell ourselves the word “Thinking” when we become aware that we’ve wandered away from the moment, the button can serve as an external reminder. If we are not aware of the button we have definitely wandered away from the moment.
All this raises a number of things to think about, but the only answer needed is this, yes my friend can now remember his empathy with others and through frequent mindfulness practice he’s also spending more time with empathy and compassion for himself, he tapping into what his efficiency brain was blocking. My friend now knows what he knows and is more open to knowing what he doesn’t know. Make sense?
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