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"How Are You"...Really? Creating Space To Answer Honestly

“ improves collaboration, raises levels of trust, and enhances loyalty. In addition, studies find that compassionate leaders are perceived as stronger and more competent.” While the rest of their article elaborates on the connection between compassion and wisdom, the authors importantly point out the benefits leading with compassion brings. Albeit, they note, along with Cater, Hobson, and Marissa Afton’s article, too much empathy can inhibit your ability to work, by taking on too much of a colleague’s emotions or impairing your ability, as they coin, to make decisions. This caveat relates to using non-positive emotions regularly to honestly answer “how are you?” I would hypothesize leaders will have less of a reaction, less of an “added weight” feeling, if people continue to normalize using these more honest responses, relating to Hougaard, Carter, and Hobson’s suggestion to “remember the power of non-action.” They remind us that people do not always need “solutions;” sometimes they are simply airing things. In the context of a “how are you,” this means simply creating space for honest responses, and not prying for further details, or assuming the person needs your help to go from that not-so positive feeling to a positive feeling. Hougaard, Carter, and Hobson frame this as “check your intention.” Rather than jumping in, think about how you can best be beneficial to that person – it may be as simple as giving the space for others to share and thanking them when they do share honestly. Leading with compassion could be more than a blog article; it could be an entire book. Hopefully, this article leaves you with a tidbit of Hebrew knowledge – but more importantly, the courage to not always answer “how are you?” with good or okay and to create space for others to do the same.

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