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How COVID and coworking can sharpen our empathy skills

COVID, coworking, empathy

A few of us at Groundwork have started a book club, and we’re currently reading Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead. I’ve been a fan of Brené since her seminal TEDx talk about vulnerability and shame, so I was really excited to dig into this book. It focuses on providing practical tools for becoming a whole-hearted leader– exactly what the world needs more of right now.

There’s a section in Dare to Lead that deals specifically with empathy, and boy is it timely and relevant. (So much so that I put down the book and dashed into the office to write this post.) I’m going to unpack one small aspect from Brené’s research on empathy as it relates to our coworking community.

One virus, millions of different stories

I’ve been in touch with almost all of Groundwork’s members since we closed our physical space. Everybody has a different story to tell.

Some members are overwhelmed with a bigger workload than ever, and struggling with long days and a lack of work-life separation.

Some members have lost a devastating amount of revenue, and are struggling to see a path forward with the business they worked so painstakingly hard to build.

Some members are left to pick up a disproportionate amount of housework and child care, even though both spouses are at home.

One member is mourning her daughter’s loss of the traditional ceremonies and goodbyes of her senior year in high school.

One member lost a parent to COVID-19.

Some members are immune-compromised, or live with someone who is immune-compromised, and are terrified of leaving the house.

Why every story matters

There’s this thing we do that Brené refers to as comparative suffering. It’s when we deem certain situations as more worthy of pain and grief than others.

“My situation isn’t as bad as theirs, I shouldn’t feel so upset.

“He has no right to complain about being overworked, I just lost my job.”

The truth is that we are all experiencing some level of grief and sadness based on our current circumstances. And we all deserve to be seen and heard. So we have a great opportunity as we heal from COVID to practice our empathy skills with the people around us. This means listening with our full attention, and without judgement.

How coworking can sharpen our empathy skills

I’m grateful that Groundwork has enabled me to see into the effects of this pandemic across a diverse community of humans.

While we prepare a slow return to the work space, I hope our coworking community will serve as a place to sharpen our empathy skills as different COVID stories emerge. And if you find yourself getting caught up in comparative suffering, remember that we are all in this together, however different we might seem.

Pssst: Want to sharpen your own empathy skills, take part in book clubs and meet great people? Sign up for our newsletter and learn more about the Groundwork community.

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