When the phone rang, there was nothing in life that could have prepared me for that call. No amount of training could have got me ready.
I heard her tears as she tried to gather herself to say what needed to be said. She tried to muster up enough air in between sobs to say something in response to me asking “how I could help?”.
She proceeded to tell me she needed to report an accident, and while my job required that I typed in the information that she would give, and there was no doubt it was information I needed to get from her to provide help, in that moment I just took my hands off the keyboard.
She told me that there was an accident that had a fatality that she needed to report. The victim was her husband.
She proceeded to tell me that she witnessed the entire accident as she was riding behind him. A vehicle came left of center and hit him head on.
My heart sank, and silently I cried right there on the phone with her.
Almost 13 years ago, I started working for one of the nations top 3 auto insurers.
A large part of what gave them this ranking was the claims experience they provided. It was something to be said for how they treated people in what could be one of the hardest times they ever had to deal with.
I sat in training for weeks for that job, and one of the main things that I still remember to this day was the way they impressed upon us, the importance of empathy in our jobs. So much so, that our ability to apply empathy was a rating factor in our overall performance.
Prior to starting this job, my 21 year old self had never even heard the word empathy.
I am grateful for that job, not only did I learn some new skills there, but there were life lessons in that new hire training.
You see the ability to empathize is not merely being sympathetic. It’s not a simple “I am sorry to hear that” response.
It is relationship. Feeling that persons pain, struggle or providing genuine care in a time of need.
the psychological identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.
In that moment on the phone with that grieving wife, tears rolled down my face, my voice developed a slight tremble as I listened and gave low volume utterances of patience and my ability to wait on her to gather herself as best she could.
I gave reassurance that there was no conversation (or action) that was more important than what was happening at that moment. I stepped out of being an information collector for accidents and into a person to understand, help and care in her situation.
I envisioned being in the front row to the tragic death of a husband I didn’t even have, wasn’t even dating, and was actually unsure of his existence.
I felt her hurt.
That conversation changed me. I remember it like yesterday. I remember it in times that my husband is riding in front of or behind me because was have taken separate cars for whatever reason. I remember going home, and holding my then 6-month-old first born child really tight.
How Empathy Grows You
No matter who you are or what you have accomplished you have hard times. Empathy reminds you of that. When you step outside of yourself to help and be there for another, it reminds you of the humans that we all are and reality that some things in life we will never be exempt from.
Why Empathy is Important
Empathy enables us to truly love and care for one another.
Empathy is the total embodiment of Romans 12:10
How Empathy Grows You
In the application of empathy for another’s situation, you become selfless to an extent whether you realize it or not. You step out of your own situation and into theres in order to truly relate, help or just be there for that person.
Selflessness grows you in that it allows you to better care for other people, to step away from thinking about yourself and to be a giver.
While I was able to apply empathy in this situation and similar situations for my job, I realize that I still have a ways to grow in applying empathy in my parenting.
My husband often asks me, “can you remember when you were x age?” when we are talking through something that one of our children has done and I am in full blown discipline mode.
Yet again, a growth opportunity.
Grow on friends!
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