Learning to Treat Others with Empathy
This blog post originally appeared on Press Start Leadership
Give a Monkey a Brain and He’ll Swear He’s the Center of the Universe
Not only is this the title of one of my favorite albums of all time (thank you, Fishbone), it also reveals an important truth about human behavior. Most people intrinsically think the world is centered around them. They also believe everyone else is constantly thinking or talking about them, but they aren’t - at least not that much. Truth is, we’re all too busy thinking about ourselves. And if someone is thinking about you, it’s usually in connection to themselves and how you orbit their universe. Aside from significant others, family, and pets - most people are only thinking about how you help them achieve happiness, food, and scritches. Okay, maybe your pets are too...
If you want to get an idea of how self-focused we are, try counting how often you self-reference.
A yogi once had me count the number of times I thought about myself or made a me-centered comment throughout the day. And let me tell you (that’s one right there), even with practice that number was significant. Self-identifying is important for all humans who haven’t reached enlightenment.
As a leader, it’s our job to understand this. Us monkeys and our universes are the reason soft skills like empathy and communication are so important. Separating from self to walk in someone else’s shoes is empathy and leadership at its highest level. We must realize others’ universes are just as important as our own.
The good news: Most people are just bopping around, trying to get by, and hoping good things happen to them. Will they still make mistakes and do boneheaded, hurtful things? Absolutely, but it’s important to remember that their actions aren’t coming from a place of ill intent, but from ignorance about how they may affect you. Monkeys can’t read minds. If they don’t communicate effectively with you, it’s most likely based on the assumptions, fears, and desires in their own personal universe. Don’t take it personally.
Now, not everyone is a happy monkey. Are there malicious assholes out there willing to hurt you for their own personal gain? Yes, of course. If you identify a bad monkey, do everything in your power not to let them get away with their selfish behavior. If you don’t, they’ll keep stealing your bananas until they are stopped. And trust me, monkeys like bananas.
In the end, we all have to live in harmony, so do your best to remember we’re all human (monkeys). Take a little time to put on another monkey’s shoes. It helps with making assumptions , communication, and most of all: empathy.
Want to do a deeper dive into Christopher's monkey brain? Check out his new podcast!