I can remember seeing a friend after university holidays – and asking “how was your break?” It’s the natural conversation starter. But when he answered, it was not what I expected. Rather than the polite “great thanks … yours?” response, I was delivered a bombshell. There was no seaside holiday or relaxing overseas trip. There was only unspeakable loss and grief.
A single question had taken us both into an unexpected place. Even today I can still remember feeling my mouth opening and closing, grasping for words that would not come. I didn’t know what to do.
So we went, my friend and I, to site silently in the university cafe. Hours passed, and finally, buzzing from the caffeine, he said goodbye and left.
The following week he thanked me. I hadn’t rushed in to solve his problem. I hadn’t offered advice. I didn’t really DO anything.
This great presentation by Evgenia Grinblo on the practice of empathy reminded me of this story – and of the care that we should take when working with our clients. Don’t rush to conclusions. Don’t think solutions. Sit and figure it out.