065 | The Power of Empathy with Eden Weller

empathy in adventure
Empathy is a critical skill in human connection, designing a life and embracing adventures. Understanding others perspectives and  be self aware of our own emotions allows us to connect more deeply with people making experiences richer.

Across many platforms this week regardless of your focus, but especially in the travel industry, we can’t ignore the news in Ukraine.  As I reflected on this time I was reminded of several experiences in my lifetime that offered a glimpse into their world.  I have never traveled to Ukraine nor do I have direct ties, however In 2002, I was teaching in Chicago Public Schools on the north side in the Edgewater neighborhood just south of Rogers Park. I was 22 years old and really green.  While I had traveled and said yes to many opportunities to meet and learn more about people different from me, being responsible for a vulnerable class of students was a humbling experience.  My first class was 4th grade and the students represented 14 different countries.  5 of my students were refugees from Bosnia.  We had several classes where we talked about family and ancestry.  I remember one boy sharing what life was like in Bosnia before the war.  They had a farm and were comfortable.  They ate well and had home cooked meals.  His blank stare and meager stature didn’t have to say what life was like in here, I could see it.  I could feel it.  This week I am feeling and remembering that 10 year old’s reflection of life before and after the war.  Travel, in particular untourism design to connect with locals feels has been an enriching experience for me largely due to my empathy skills. It seemed the best theme for this episode was a deep dive into empathy.  This episode was recorded long before the invasion of Ukraine, but the lessons of empathy as a critical skill in designing a life and embracing adventures before us are still relevant. 

Our guest today spent the better part of his career building and leading an elite internal research capability at a corporation.  His role was to lead an incredibly talented team of researchers to elevate the voice of the customer allowing business units to make customer-centric decisions more quickly.  He facilitated“design sprints” working with cross-functional teams on everything from internal “employer of choice” initiatives; product/service enhancements to breakthrough innovation / blue sky opportunities.

He was my go-to design thinking or human centered design guru in learning how to solve community problems differently at work.  In our years of working together I learned to apply the human-centered design principles to my life ultimately leading me towards a life of adventure with kids.  He is an aspriging feminist father of 3, amateur Yogi, and baseball enthusiast who is redefining traditional measures of success on on lifelong learning journey.

Key Takeaways

  1. At the root of empathy is emotions.
  2. As reflected from Eden’s learning in the Art of Empathy there are 6 elements of empathy: Emotion contagion, empathetic accuracy; emotion regulation (self-awareness); Perspective taking; Concern for others: Perceptive engagement which is are you willing to act when you gain that empathy for others.  If your empathetic accuracy and emotional regulation are strong you will have the range and depth to understand the attitudes and experiences that are different from yours. 
  3. Many of us don’t have formal education to understand emotions. Learning how to feel is something often lands on parents or perhaps a less formal educational support such as through faith and other communities.  If there is a gap in understanding our own feelings, that increases the gap  in empathy and the ability to feel others people’s emotions.  It is a teachable learnable skill, but starts with learning and acknowledging your own feelings.  
  4. We tend to classify emotions into good and bad.  Happiness and joy are easy to talk about, fear, anger and sadness are much more vulnerable to share.  Lean in here.  If we can be more empathetic as a society 
  5. “I’m never an expert, I just always want to continue to learn.” As apparent, my willingness to entertain a different viewpoint allows space for me to practice empathy with my kids.   I am able to change my mind when I learn new or different information is a critical component for me.  
  6. An “aspiring feminist father“ is really responsive fathering.  It’s embracing the role from a participatory, reflective and listening perspective as opposed to the masculine, dominant or perhaps authoritative way that many fathers are perceived.  A key component is to learn “what is it like to be you?”
  7. Empathy is a super power that allows you to understand what people believe and recognize it’s not right or wrong, but how do I understand it
  8. You are never done designing your life, it’s a constant feedback look of listening and learning, testing and experimenting, adapting and iterating.  After feeling and understand then comes the radical collaboration, in this case with family members, to decide what we want to do next. 
  9. For the better part of his life, success was defined by salary and job title.  A meme by Liz and Molly articulated that a better representation of a pie graph including different slices of life such as mental health, physical health, what I like to do, free time and some smaller slice of salary and job title.  So now he is exploring what freelancing looks like and dedicating time to being a dad and volunteering.  Being okay with having free time.  
  10. Spending time in self care with things like yoga, massage and meditation helped me unpack the feelings I was feeling.  In addition to spending more time with family, and spending more time in leisure and not feeling guilty about it.  Having space is allowing him to be aware of where he is getting energy and giving energy and greater balance between the inputs and outputs.  
  11. A critical element in taming the fear and anxiety is a support network he could be vulnerable with to challenge his perspective. Secondly a risk assessment and walking through the ways to avoid and prevent key fears.  “I don’t think we are ever 100% ready nor will you cross off all the potential things that could go sideways.” These were key items in quieting the inner critic and reinforce that I am good enough.    

To Follow or Connect with Eden
Email: e.jon.weller@gmail.com 
Linked In:  @EdenWeller

Resources mentioned in this episode:
Book: The Art of Empathy by Karla Mclarane
Book: Father Figure by Jordan Shapiro
Meme: Liz and Mollie How we’re taught to Measure Success: https://twitter.com/lizandmollie/status/1361011227640520704

Where to Listen

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