…Or making the case for empathy; intuition and nurturing
Perhaps it’s just me, but I get a sense that in general terms ‘doing’ is far more valued in the world of business than ‘being’.
The thing is, ‘being’ is our natural state or default setting, whereas ‘doing’ requires a little more effort.
In ‘being’ we are effortlessly using our innate and developing talents; whereas in ‘doing’ we are applying our efforts to interpret a specific set of rules in order to perform a defined task.
I think perhaps the trouble starts when there is a greater disparity between how we ‘are’ and what we think we have to ‘do’, to be of value.
And as any student of psychology or business who has encountered Abraham Maslow’s ‘hierarchy’ of human needs will tell you, we all need to feel valued (for how we really are)!
And yet there are so many of our natural skills and abilities that have just not been valued within the traditionally business environment.
For example, the use of intuition or empathy, are neither (or at least not yet!) quantifiable nor subject to exact reproduction in laboratory settings; and therefore have been designated as ‘irrational’ processes.
To date, they have not been widely regarded as reliable bases for decision- making.
However, some theorists and researchers have claimed that intuition is not an externally or mystically sourced ‘power’ of insight; but merely part of the human cognitive processes.
It is claimed that we already have all the knowledge required to arrive at the ‘a- ha!’ moment deeply embedded in our brains. We access the solution at lightening speed by ‘thin slicing’ through our dense knowledge base in a most effective and economical manner, to arrive at the right conclusion. As such, we are often unable to retrace every step in detail.
As much of our life-long learning process remains at the sub- conscious level (who can actually remember actively learning their mother tongue or taking their first step…?) then who is to say the process of recall does not work in a similar way?
It may well be the case.
Therefore, in my view, this strengthens the argument that this high- level functioning process of ‘knowing’ is to be valued and incorporated as part of our multi-faceted decision- making process.
To demonstrate or to respond to empathy from others has also traditionally been regarded as aspect of human behaviour for which there is little requirement or respect, in the business world.
However, empathy is an integral feature of any human being, (I feel, therefore I am!) albeit the capability varying greatly between people individuals… As most business or work environments necessitate communication between people, I am still amazed by the number of people in business who claim to have no interest in how we humans function! Something akin to a doctor who expresses no interest in the human body; or a mechanic who just couldn’t care less about how the components of an engine can work together most efficiently!
Try re-tracing your ‘cognitive steps’ in one very important decision that you have made in your life. I’m confident that at some point the facts or the exact reasoning becomes a little less obvious. This is because our cognitive processes are awash with thoughts; feelings; attitudes and beliefs, interwoven with a mix of our current interpretation of experiences and our previously constructed memories.
When making important choices or deciphering complex scenarios we are informed by the whole of our internal sensory database, as opposed to one select sphere, such as the cool rationalisation of the facts of the case.
No doubt there are many of us who, having worked in many traditional, male dominated environments, have felt inhibited in openly expressing our innate abilities.
For example take the intention to nurture, which many women incorporate into all of their relationships, not just familial.
There is much debate about whether this is an innate or learned behaviour, however it is most important to realise that this is a skill, equally as valid as any other. Nurture is a crucial component of the social fabric of human society.
In essence, it is on both individual and social levels, a positive and constructive phenomenon, so why exclude it from the workplace? Surely it can only add an extra dimension to the sense of being valued; one of the needs that we all need to function most effectively?
I feel it is time for those of us who want to realize our full potential, to cut to the chase and start valuing and applying our full range of our skills and abilities -without apology!
Helen Noble is a partner in a psychologically- informed legal practice. Also a psychology graduate, she has spent 5 years working as a facilitator on CBT- based psychological rehabilitation programmes; and is also a member of the UK Association for Coaching.