As I research and consider multiple avenues of compassionate connectedness, I had the pleasure to view The Empathetic Civizilization, a brief overview of our proposed evolution from a tribalized society to what could be a global society supported in an empathetic embrace based on Jeremy Rifkin’s 2010 book, The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis. In brief, Rifkin suggests humans may not be hard-wired for aggression but soft-wired for empathetic relationships with a need for sociability, compassion, attachment and a need to belong. He posits that technology has the potential to support this connectedness and natural need to belong and provide an avenue to express empathy through compassion actions. Case in point – the global outpouring of relief to the Tsunami flood victims in 2004. The world quickly connected to express compassion to those in need. One hundred years ago that would not have been possible. Perhaps technology is our avenue to expedite this empathetic embrace – this humanity that elevates itself by reaching out to those who suffer.
If empathy is the invisible hand that is moving our biosphere from tribalization to a universal empathetic embrace, what is my role? How am I doing? Am I leading with great intentions or acting on my empathy to reach out and embrace?
As I consider the process of transitioning thoughts to action, I can’t help but think of making lists and the sense of achievement I receive when I check off an action item. I have several lists. A grocery list, a daily “to-do” list, monthly list, lists of movies to watch, books to read, lists, lists, lists. As I consider this list, especially my “to-do” list, what percent of my list includes an action to create a compassionate connection? Am I using technology to help me reach out more effectively?
Am I sending an e – card, calling someone, instant messaging a kind word, offering assistance, recognizing efforts, just “checking in” with someone I know is in pain or suffering – in essence, did compassion make the list? Is a compassionate action making the written or electronic list, the sticky notes on the fridge and computer screen at least once a day, a week, or even once a month?
Understanding the frequency of compassionate actions may help a person become more aware of what is being actually implementing versus just experiencing the brief feeling of empathy and intending to reach out.
- So how can we use technology more effectively to move empathetic thoughts into action?
- Log compassionate actions into your e-calendar
- Add a “Compassion” category to your action items, tasks or lists
- Use Outlook or your electronic calendar’s to mark compassionate follow-ups and flag reminders with your staff, a colleague or family member
- And for the true data managers, track your actions in an Excel spreadsheet and trend over time
Compassion data management is not a competition. Writing it down provides data and thus creates awareness. We are human, have the best of intentions, and can forget. Or we can sometimes have higher opinions of our compassionate capabilities than is reality. Technology can help us create an accurate picture with facts and figures, of how and when we reach out. Technology will not completely replace the human touch, but it will help us connect and provide us an opportunity to reach beyond intention.
Most importantly, as we move from empathy to compassion, consider the internal response felt when we have reached out. Yes, compassion is also spontaneous but technology and data can help us remind ourselves to not let life swirl past us – to not become embedded in ourselves, our own tasks and priorities to the point of forgetting to reach and relieve pain and suffering. Otherwise empathy can become intentions, those elusive thoughts that may flow into your “shoulda, coulda, woulda” ocean of regrets.