As I sit here on my connecting flight from Denver to Raleigh via Charlotte, I’m struck by the importance of a little thing called empathy. I’m sure Webster has a clearer definition than what I’m capable of, but to me empathy is using the resources available to you to make other people feel better about their own circumstances. Maybe it’s a kind word, a smile, an offering of a good or service or, in my case, it’s information. If I am the pilot of an entire aircraft of passengers that is delayed, my way of empathizing with those passengers is to give them every minute detail of whatever the hell is going on with air traffic control, the paperwork that didn’t get to them on time or the wing that just fell off. It shouldn’t matter that the pilot deals with these types of issues on a daily basis. I do not and neither do most of my fellow passengers, especially not the mothers of small children to whom each second on this plane feels like an eternity (not me this time!). We want to know!! Knowledge is power and power makes us feel like we have a teeny tiny bit of control over what is happening to us. It also lends itself to that concept of managing expectations which is my go-to life survival tactic.
And so as I continue to ponder the subject of empathy, I start to wonder if it isn’t the key to happiness.
(This is where I stopped writing the first time and had planned to hash out more of what it means to be empathetic and, for that matter, happy, but I think I’ll just leave it alone for now. I’m on a bit of a happiness quest myself right now, even reading a book I can’t put down called “The Happiness Project,” so I’m waiting until I have more to share on the subject.)