The movie Wild, starring Reese Witherspoon, is based on Cheryl Strayed’s New York Times best selling memoir. She wrote it about a time when her mother died, her marriage dissolved, and she thought she had nothing left to lose.
Now a celebrated author, Strayed’s success is due to more than her insightful prose. She champions the practice of “radical empathy."
Radical empathy means sometimes the most powerful tool is genuine, human response. As articulated by her frequent collaborator, Steve Almond, “We’re hurtling through time and space and information faster and faster, seeking that network of connection. But at the same time we’re falling away from our families and our neighbors and ourselves."
The most powerful communicators offer strength, and when appropriate, also display vulnerability.
Everyone’s heard the expression, “People do business with people they like.” But what does that really mean? Even in business, people respond incredibly powerfully to authentic connection.
Scientifically, the definition of empathy is a physical matching between two people. If you empathize with someone, you often sync up in heart rate and breath pattern.
As long as you balance your empathy with effectiveness, people will respect you for it and like you more.
Although people fear it may be a sign of weakness, this ability to reveal your humanity with a colleague or client is actually a display of strength.