Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Ignorance Journal

Sorry for the long absence. I went to the Texas A&M / Okie State away game this weekend and have been catching up on my studying since! (We won in overtime to spoil their homecoming -- Whoop!).

Ignorance journal time.

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I have two topics this week to write about (makeup time). Empathy and Communication. This is fortunate, as both I believe are closely tied together and can build upon each other.

I'll start with what I know. Empathy is "feeling for" someone's situation. I think this is a must-have in terms of leadership skills. After all, how can you lead someone when you don't understand where they're coming from?

However, there's more to it than the surface. How far is too far? How much is it necessary to feel for someone? Is it also important to sympathize? I would think that you'd be best off understanding, but not condining. Empathy, also, corresponds with positives as well. Does it follow that if you merely empathize but don't sympathize for negative actions on your follower's part, that you must also do so for their positive actions? This follows with leadership and emotional detachment; I think you have to temper both highs and lows with a detached interest that never takes the focus of where you're at and where you're going.

Will people view you as weak if you empathize with every situation? Are there times when you ought not to show empathy for others? After all, we all have different situations and backgrounds. When you presume to empathize, is it possible you belittle the situations of others, be it highs or lows?

Communication is also an important part of empathy. I believe it likely does no good if you are empathetic but don't communicate that to your followers. Communication is a big one because it ties in every aspect of leadership. Its the foundation that the rest is built on. How can you improve your communication? I've found in the Corps that often times folks simply misunderstand what you're saying -- specifically if you're saying something they don't want to hear. I don't know the best way of convincing someone they're wrong; I suspect that the best course is to convince them they agree with you and did all along. How is that accomplished? Is empathy a part of that? I wonder how much of communication is merely based on pre-conceived notions? How much of a conversation is decided before the first word is spoken? Based on that, is it better to try to "guide" conversations? How much does manipulation play a role in good leadership?

Too many questions, not enough answers. But I'm learning.