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In a previous blog, I told a story about my father being deaf and how this becomes a superpower for him in business. (To read more on this back story, please visit “Seeing What People Say”) I had no idea what a gift my father had given me during my childhood until I became a working adult in a hearing world. I spent most of my childhood playing on oil stained floors and building things out of nuts, bolts and other parts I found lying around my father’s parts house. Being a precocious child, I followed him around asking question after question. How does this work? What is this for? What happens when you push this? One day while attending to my job as the underfoot question asking machine, I followed my father into the mechanics bay. He closed the hood on the car and laid face down on it. As soon as he stood back up, an urgent voice asked, “Daddy, why did you lay down on the hood of that car?” He went into an explanation about how cars are like people; they are living and breathing machines. “I was listening to the car’s heart and lungs by feeling how it vibrates, so I can help fix the car,” was his last words before he turned and went looking for a part. It was there in our family owned parts store that I discovered my father had another super power. I know this kind of sounds like the movie Transformers, but I assure you he has not built an alien robot nation. However, he did at that moment transform my way of seeing the world.
When I got my first car, my father taught me how to take my car’s pulse. Not to just listen, but feel my way around her. Today, I drive a car with an encased engine that I choose not to mess with. When I “feel” something wrong with her, I have a conversation with my service advisor about what I “feel” has happened. Often the service department will rely on diagnostics to tell them what is wrong with a car, but diagnostics are like lab results in a hospital. You still need to take the pulse of patient. Feeling and listening to the car is part of fixing the problem. With that said, just like a flat tire on a car, there are situations in life that are easy to diagnosis and respond to. Other experiences in life may be as complicated as discovering the buzzing sounds that keeps coming and going from under the dashboard.
When faced with tough situations, go beyond listening and start feeling. This super hero power is called empathy. We live in a world in which it is easy to be disconnected. Think about it. How often is your conversations with a family member who does not reside with you happen via text messages or emails? The art of empathy is often lost in today’s enterprises. We avoid being in touch with our feelings and truly knowing ourselves as individuals. When this happens, it becomes difficult to relate to others. When you add empathy to your toolbox, you have greater access to a direction and resolution for those tough circumstances in life.