Last week, I was presenting to a wonderful group of leaders. I arrived two hours early to ensure the technology would work. It turned out that the AV equipment provided at the venue wasn’t compatible with my computer. A stressful moment to say the least.
A recent study has determined that empathy originates in the anterior insular cortex, which is a different part of the brain that is activated when you’re stressed. I’m no neuroscientist, but my experience of being stressed about the AV equipment and its implications for my presentation made it difficult to be empathic with the guy from the venue who was trying to help me, was defensive, and knew nothing about technology.
His lack of people skills and my lack of empathy created a scenario that did not end well. My impatience led to a less than respectful exchange.
The irony of the situation was that I was presenting on Caring In The Workplace!
Upon reflection, here’s what I learned:
- When agitated, pause. Step back, go for a walk, call a friend, do whatever you need to do to get to a calm state. Agitation, irritability, and impatience never help a situation.
- Decide, when going into any stressful situation, that blame is a waste of time. Working on solutions rather than being angry about the problems is far more effective.
- Ensure you are clear about expectations and have a backup strategy. “This is what I need to make this project a success.” And, when life happens and everything falls apart, calmness and confidence arise from having a plan B.
- Accept your humanness and when you are wrong, and promptly admit it. I called the venue yesterday and apologized to the guy who was trying to be helpful that morning.