Sometimes we struggle with situations that leave us feeling powerless, like a buoy bobbing as the current takes it to and fro. The waves crash over top, leaving it pushed down beneath the surface, only to pop up again as the seas calm down. These markers serve a special purpose, to assess distance or an unacceptable lane for a boat to pass. Yet, with all of its purpose one thing remains clear, the buoy serves others, not itself. It can be anchored down, or appear to be free floating, able to move. Yet it is still controlled by the unrelenting swings of mother nature. It can also be this way in life.
How many times have we mismanaged others, or been mishandled during a particular situation? We may have left our children feeling unheard, our spouses under appreciated, or coworkers misunderstood? Perhaps our talent may have slipped right through the very fingertips of the people assigned to give us guidance and direction. I know I have been both the recipient and guilty party on numerous occasions.
It occurred to me that most people are trained to manage problems in a very one-dimensional way. In business an overall cost factor, production vs. support ratios, and comparisons to peers are standard measures. At home it may take the shape of responsibilities vs. rewards, grades instead of effort spent, or comparison between siblings, friends, and life styles. We don’t know how to use relationship building skills to get to the root of issues, which is often a feeling of powerlessness.
Clear cut responsibilities and job detail are important. There is a place for bottom line numbers, process and procedure. However, there is a human element sorely lacking in today’s culture, both business and personal. Talent is being assessed based on comparative, and outdated concepts. Members of a household may be contributing in ways that they feel are effective, yet being overlooked or under appreciated because it is not what was expected of them by the parent, spouse or sibling.
To understand someone is to practice listening with empathy. When someone feels you are putting yourself into their shoes regardless of hierarchy, it fosters trust. There is no greater foundation for any relationship. It is built over time, and one of the largest contributing factors is letting someone know that they have some power over the circumstances surrounding them. Feeling heard and understood creates the dialogue needed to make good choices, ultimately establishing a win-win for all involved.
The world needs leaders, not just managers. We are all called to lead at some point in our lives, and at the core of any good leader is the ability to listen with ears of empathy. We can all improve, and impart unto others a feeling of control.
In the midst of such a turbulent and volatile times, the moments we do feel we have some power can assuage our fears, calm our nerves and inspire our souls. Next to love, empathy is high on the list of what this world needs more of.
The truly “powerful” person understands that only by giving up the perceived control they have over situations and others, can they create lasting and enriching relationships.