A Lesson in Empathy

empathy 1Empathy is one of the emotional competencies we teach. In the construction industry, many contractors are maligned for not having empathy.  And it is true that it is not our best thing.  Empathy is usually one of the lower scores for the people with which we work.  But I don’t think the folks in the industry get enough credit.  There is no project on this planet that is more complicated and fraught with pitfalls as a construction project.  Think of how many parts and pieces there are.  Think of how many people are involved in the process from the idea in the owner’s head through the end of the life of the building.  The complexities are astronomical.  It amazes me that we get anything built.

But we do.  We build a lot of projects and help make the world a better place.  We build the infrastructure and the schools and the hospitals and the sports and entertainment venues that make our lives better.  And we do it collaboratively.  Sometimes this process gets bogged down.  Sometimes we forget that we are only humans trying to tackle these gargantuan tasks.  But we push through and we get it done.  I applaud the folks in the construction industry, which is by far, the most collaborative industry on the planet.

Can we do better?  Yes, we can.  Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t be in business.  But let’s build on the successes of collaboration and use our empathy to understand the other stakeholders and make the project work. I have a great empathy exercise that I recommend often.  Go home, turn of the television and sit down with each member of your family.  Then ask them to tell you about their day.  And all you can do is listen.  You can’t offer advice.  You can’t solve any of tehir problems.  You can’t tell them what they should have done.  All do is try to determine how they felt during their day.  And that’s all you can say to them.  That must have made you angry or upset or sad or frustrated or happy.  Another great empathy lesson is illustrated in this video from The Cleveland Hospital.  Check it out:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cDDWvj_q-o8


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