Why having compassion matters
Having compassion, empathy and an understanding of different perspectives are important qualities to nurture, writes Artemis Evangelidi.
We know that emotional intelligence is a superpower – it enables us to connect with our teams, our clients and of course ourselves, on a deeper and more effective level. What is concerning however, is how these inherently natural human traits have now become “skills” that we need to be trained in.
As human beings we are born to care – from a young age we innately know that it is healthy and correct to express our emotions freely and without judgement. That is until adults tell us to stop – stop crying, stop being sad, stop feeling lonely, just stop. And so, the conditioning begins. It is best to keep those emotions out of sight so you can get on with the tasks at hand. They are too raw, too confrontational. After all, no one has the time to listen to how you really feel.
Most law students choose to enter the law to bring about change – to fight for injustice and for those in need. To advocate human rights and equality at all levels. To bring about transformation and support the community in the process. Highly emotional topics with highly emotional responses. And then armed with their law degrees they enter the “real world” of law firms, where all of this can be done but within an emotional void as the conditioning continues.
“Don’t be too friendly with the clients; don’t show your emotions; keep a neutral expression; make sure that you do not get too caught up in their feelings; you need to be detached to do your work properly” and so on. These are not imaginary statements. These are real and are made day in, day out in BigLaw.
And so, with all that fire in their belly quickly extinguished, some lawyers succumb to the neutrality of the law firm. Highly powerful and motivating emotions get put on the top shelf, to the side and out of reach. With years of practice, they are all but forgotten in the workplace. There are civility, politeness, political correctness and a tiptoeing around the elephants in the room, but it gets the job done.
The most basic of human traits have been quashed to make room for inauthenticity – for role-playing in effect. And the saddest part is, that we may buy into it – we may believe that it is for the best.
Every now and then we may be reminded that the most empowering, inspiring leaders are those who are true to themselves. Who know how to be authentic, to lead with empathy and grace and to create a culture based on honesty and open communication. That those leaders connect with their clients and really understand how to meet their needs. And so after a few days training, these same lawyers may then be asked to slip into the role of the authentic and inspiring leader. And the question then becomes – how? How can all that conditioning now be undone?
The arrival of the pandemic also brought with it the urgent need to flick the switch, enter that dusty cupboard and retrieve the compassion, empathy and love forgotten years ago, so they could be put back into active duty. But when left holding parts of ourselves that we no longer recognise, how can we make them fit, particularly under pressure? Pandemic or not, those parts of ourselves need to be reattached for good, and now is as good a time as ever.
Compassion matters. Empathy matters. Love in the workplace matters. Understanding and humility matter. These are incredibly powerful gifts that we each bring to the table, enabling us to connect, to take responsibility, to find solutions and to serve in the best way possible. But to reactivate them, we need to reconnect with our authentic core. If we are up for this challenge, then we are certain to change our lives and those of our teams, our clients and our communities, for the better.
Artemis Evangelidi is the CEO of Aipeia Consulting. She is an author, lawyer and conscious business consultant.