In an age where we often label and stigmatize, how can we communicate with empathy? What are the benefits of listening to people who don’t think, feel, and believe as you do? And how can curiosity help you when you disagree with someone?
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In this episode, I talk with author, podcaster, wife, and mom Kathleen Peters about how we can communicate with empathy. We dive into the factors that cause division and discuss practical strategies to build empathy. If you’re wondering how you can make a difference through meaningful conversation in a culture that values polarization, this episode is for you.
Kathleen’s Leadership Journey
She didn’t realize she was a leader until high school and really enjoyed leading others. Out of college, Kathleen got married and started homeschooling their children. Along the way, she taught classes at church and did network marketing. It wasn’t until 2016 that she “dabbled” in leadership, seeing herself as a teacher.
Kathleen started speaking then wrote a book then started a Facebook group and now runs a podcast, all relating to empathy and communicating.
She started her podcast because she has seen the importance and power of empathy in her own life, and she was noticing the women were longing for deep connections.
“Empathy is key to having deep relationships.”
At the same time, she was concerned at how divisive our society has become, and she wanted to do something about it. She was seeing Christian friends doing things that were cruel like generalizing and labeling.
The Power of Empathy and Curiosity
Kathleen’s Podcast, What She Wishes You Knew, focuses on teaching women empathetic communication. She believes that hearing other people’s stories allows us to practice empathy and move away from the harmful ways we sometimes communicate.
She wanted women to hear the messy stories of other women. In these stories, the guest can share with the listener what she wishes the listener knew about their story and life.
She also includes a segment on the podcast during which the guest shares something potentially controversial. She encourages her listeners to consider their feelings when the guest shares this information.
“Be uncomfortable, but still stay in there. Still love people. Still engage with them.”
Kathleen believes that Jesus set the example for us of how to be with people who are different.
The Benefits of Knowing People who Think, Feel, and Believe Differently than You
Remember that you may not forge a deep friendship with someone completely different than you, but it’s still important to hear their voice.
You’ll receive five benefits if you do:
- You learn from the other person, and in turn, learn about yourself. Her beliefs help you figure out where you stand and why.
- You understand you’re not the center of the universe. When you see the world through someone else’s eyes, it helps you not be selfish.
- You love others better when you know more about them and where they’re coming from.
- You see people as humans, not as labels.
- Overall, the culture is improved because of your curiosity.
“The more I question, the more I get curious about the people around me–the more I understand about myself and the more I understand about people around me, the better I love.”
Factors that Cause Division
- Social media: We say things online we’d never say in person.
- Fear: When we are fearful, we run away from each other and look for our “tribe” of people just like us.
- Self-protection: We don’t want to feel uncomfortable or feel your feelings with you because they are so hard. We don’t want to admit that what happened to you could happen to me too.
Labeling and name-calling results in us dehumanizing one another. But when we recognize that every person is made in the image of God, we will treat others differently.
How to Communicate with Empathy
Kathleen provides us with some practical strategies and tips around communicating with others and using empathy in our conversations.
How to Communicate with Those Different than You
- Stop and look at yourself. How do you see the other person? Do you see the person as God does?
- Start with the truth that the other person is made in the image of God.
Practical Strategies to Build Empathy
First of all, it’s vital to remain curious. Ask yourself why she feels or believes as she does.
“Stay in curiosity. Always be in wonder of other people.”
Second, stay away from needing to win or change her mind. Hold her with open hands; it’s not your responsibility to change her.
Next, look for similarities. Is there something that you have in common? Are there feelings that both of you have experienced?
Finally, look for ways to encourage and tell her you’re rooting for her.
“When we feel seen and heard, we are connected.”
When Communication Can’t Happen
Someone may hold such an extreme belief that dialogue won’t happen. Ask yourself:
- Is the other person safe for me to be around?
- Is she interested in engaging in conversation?
If you recognize that you are not in a good space to have the conversation, you may want to step away. Also, it is okay to speak up and say “I think that is harmful.” Remember, use common sense.
We also discuss that social media is not the place to try and change people’s minds. For the most part, social media will not be effective when it comes to having productive disagreements.
Leaders Are Learners:
Favorite Tools Kathleen Uses to Understand her Wiring
- Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown
- The Road Back to You by Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile
- DiSC profile
- Learning about others helps Kathleen learn about herself
Advice for Younger Leaders
Kathleen loves this quote from Oprah Winfrey: “Do not think you can be brave with your life and your work, and never disappoint anyone. It doesn’t work that way.”
Remember that you have no control over whether people are disappointed.Not everyone will be happy and you will be misunderstood. Stop trying to please unhappy people!
What Kathleen is Learning:
- I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening) by Sarah Steward Holland and Beth A. Silvers
- God is also teaching Kathleen to trust herself.
Other Episodes Mentioned:
- Episode 59: The Importance of Apologetics in Leadership and Dealing with Doubt with Hillary Morgan Ferrer
- Episode 73: How to Win Others Over and Communicate Positively in the Workplace with Natalie Gingrich
- Episode 77: How to Use Social Media Effectively as a Christian Leader
Connect with Kathleen Peters:
Kathleen is a native Pacific Northwesterner who loves to help women develop deep connections with others by utilizing the tools of listening, empathy, courage, and vulnerability. She is the author of Embrace You: A Guide to Uncovering the Real You, the creator and CEO of the Facebook Group Straight Up Real Mamas, and host/producer of the podcast What She Wishes You Knew.
Kathleen believes that if each woman will learn to celebrate the beautiful woman God has made her to be, show up authentically with that woman, and then practice the skills of empathy (listening well to love well) she will find the deeper connections she is desiring.
Kathleen is not your average speaker: she’s an ex-dairy goat farmer, retired homeschool teacher, and Mini Cooper owner who regularly takes corners above the suggested speed limit. If you want her want to speak her love language, give her a steaming cup of Peet’s Coffee, a Brené Brown book, and a pint of Southern Butter Pecan Gelato, please.
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