Pre-Contact: Collective Empathy

In the last blog, we considered the notion of “stranger love.”  Here I would like to extend the idea.
I was invited to speak to a group of mid-career people in a part-time doctoral program.  I spent much time preparing to be “with” them.  To do this, I needed to practice pre-contact collective empathy.  Disciplining myself to imagine and orient to their deepest, shared needs, I prepared at two levels.  First, I organized content that would hold their attention and invite dialog.  Second, I prepared myself to hear what they might communicate at the emotional level.  Responding to their deepest messages, I wanted to challenge and support them until they could hear their consciences call them to their highest purpose.  This means I wanted to love these strangers into a renewed sense of purpose and vitality.  I wanted them to be renewed from the inside out on a daily basis.
At the outset, I invited them to consider some provocative questions.  The emergent conversation was full of humorous and skeptical remarks about organizational life.  Gradually I moved them to the positive lens.  We first examined leadership as they had never considered it.  The conversation suddenly became positive and serious.  This means we were co-creating a new medium, and the room was becoming sacred space, a place where deep learning could occur.
We then turned the positive lens to something central to their professional lives: learning to do research.  We considered the demands on a part-time doctoral student, the notion of purpose, and the question of how to do research with passion.
I felt deep learning occurred, and this feeling was confirmed by comments afterwards.  One woman said, “I have selected a topic that originally came to be through academic discussion with my advisor.  This morning my mind was taken to a document I was once required to write.  It was a statement of my personal learning history.  I immediately realized that my research passion is not in my selected topic.  Rather, my real topic is embedded in that history.  I am going to make a big shift.  Thank you.”
There were some similar comments.  I left the building was a sense of profound satisfaction.  Secular conversations of the world tend to produce intention without passion and efforts that tend to perish.  I am grateful for the practice of pre-contact collective empathy and emergent conversations of love that allow the inner person to find purpose and then move through life with a sense of passion, learning, growing, and contributing.

  • Is the work of your people driven by a purpose that creates passion?
  • What would it mean to approach them with pre-contact collective empathy?
  • What would it mean to hold a meaningful conversation in sacred space where they could engage in deep learning?
  • How could we use this passage to create a more positive organization?


One comment on “Pre-Contact: Collective Empathy

  1. “Be true to your own self. Love yourself absolutely. Do not pretend that you love others as yourself. Unless you have realized others as one with yourself, you cannot love them. Don’t pretend to be what you are not, don’t refuse to be what you are. Your love for others is the result of self-knowledge, not its cause.” – Nisargadatta Maharaj, Seeds of Consciousness
    “Once there is a certain degree of presence, of still and alert attention in human beings perceptions, they can sense the divine life essence, the one indwelling consciousness or spirit in every creature, every life form, recognize it as one with their own essence and so love it as themselves. Until this happens, however, most humans see only the outer forms, unaware of the inner essence, just as they are unaware of their own essence and identify only with their own physical and psychological form.” – Tolle Eckhart, A New Earth

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