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Empathy without Action

“Empathy without action risks reinforcing the status quo”

- Jacqueline Novogratz


I am currently coaching a small team in a small company. The individuals I work with are kind, thoughtful, empathic people. They are afraid to hold others accountable because they believe accountability is harsh. It is not uncommon for people to think being held accountable means you are in trouble. So, they prefer to have ‘empathy’ and avoid accountability.


Brene’ Brown says it well, “There is no accountability without empathy, and no empathy without accountability.”


I used to say to my son, “I love you too much to allow you to get in your own way. When I had you, I realized that I signed up to pay attention and call you on the behaviors that aren’t working.” It was a commitment to love him in clear, consistent ways so he could learn how to be in the world.


I imagine most of that didn’t mean a lot to him until he was older, but once, when I did call him out, he got mad and hung up. A few hours later he called back and asked, “How do you know when to do that?”


Accountability is loving. It also takes practice to become skillful.


The quote above speaks to the truth that clarity is kind. If we are not willing to show up and take the risk, we reinforce the status quo for the sake of our own discomfort.


And, discomfort doesn’t mean there is something wrong.


It almost always means growth.



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