Empathy may be the single most important quality that must be nurtured to give peace a fighting chance.

Arundhati Ray

I had a misunderstanding with my partner this morning. I needed her to do something, it was quite logical, for her benefit even, but… she refused.

I was frustrated, it turned to a mini-argument, I pointed out the logic of the course of action and asked why she was refusing. She didn’t have words for it, she just said she can’t. I then resorted to subtle threats, and I stormed out of the room.

After having a shower, I reflected deeply on the issue and how I could have handled it better. You see, in being a leader or even just a friend or companion, a very important if not the most important skill is empathy – the ability to have another person’s perspective.

My partner is mostly phlegmatic, I was asking her to approach a person and make a request, while that isn’t a confrontation to me, I’m sure she viewed it as one. The right thing for me to do would have been to understand her feelings instead of focusing on the logic of my argument and the merits and demerits of the course of action.

I’ve noticed this in my dealings with colleagues and friends too, sometimes we get so caught up in our own ideas, ideals and feelings that we fail to take a moment to walk an inch in the other person’s shoes.

Next time you get into a disagreement, seek first to understand, before being understood. Even if you don’t understand, always weigh the opportunity cost of having an altercation even if the bad blood remains bottled in your head. For me, that would have definitely been a ruined day, a tense car ride with my partner and maybe even lead to a major disagreement.

Choose your battles wisely

– Anonymous

Inter-personal issues may be inevitable, but you can choose your battles and ensure conflict doesn’t stem from an unwillingness to take a second to have a little bit of empathy.

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