Empathy – Navigating the pandemic

It is a word you hear in business often now, and probably something people really need to also incorporate into their personal lives now more than ever.  What does empathy mean?  Well, according to the Oxford dictionary, the definition of empathy is - the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

If there is one thing this pandemic has really brought to mind for me is that a lot of people really cannot get past their own situation.  There is a lot of anger between people based on social distancing and closing businesses to keep people safe and the opposite camp that keeps pushing herd immunity and opening the economy back up.

What might be the biggest driver of human emotion and decision making is fear.  If you want to understand why people are pushing so hard to “stay inside” or “open up the economy,” both standpoints are driven by fear.  What we all need to understand is that people have concerns and are afraid.

Close it down – Stay at home

Those that are looking to keep things shut down have the fear of losing loved ones or literally just the fear of people dying in general. You can count on the fact that they do not want to get sick themselves nor do they want to see others get sick and die. This fear is trumping their desire to see businesses open and people working. What you may or may not know, some of these people may have already lost loved ones or someone close to them from the COVID-19 virus.

Open it up – Get the economy going

Those people looking to open up the economy and get things rolling have the fear that there will be a depression and that they will be poor.  Some of these people have lost their jobs or have taken pay cuts already. They are already seeing the economic impact of the pandemic, and they do not like it.

Now you have read this far and you are thinking “duh, Mike, no shit…” but what is happening is these people are all angry at one another and most of them may not even know that their decision of what the correct thing to do is based solely on their own personal perspective.  People who have lost a job, suffered a pay cut or fear losing their job, immediately went to “open up the economy.”  People who view themselves or loved ones as susceptible to the virus immediately went to “close everything down.”  It is simply human nature.

Whichever perspective you have here, you most likely think you are correct, and the other standpoint is incorrect.  My question here is “do you have more compassion and empathy towards whatever the opposing view is?”  People have legitimate concerns and fears right now and only through understanding and focusing on how to move forward will we get through this.

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