My oldest daughter Hannah is now twenty. Several years ago she had a hand in the most pivotal moment in my real estate career. She was in the seventh grade, and she was struggling through the awkward days of middle school and being a teenager. She suffered with depression and anxiety. Boldly, she suggested seeing a therapist, to secure an unbiased ear to listen to her concerns. At one of the visits to the therapist, I requested a few minutes of the therapist’s time at the end of the session; I was seeking to get caught “up to speed.”
The therapist was very reassuring and informed me of the fact that their client-therapist relationship was growing. My chief concern was that I felt as though I could not connect with my daughter. In many ways, we were different back then. She likes Harry Potter and Marvel, loves Disney television shows, and she’s artistic. On the other hand, I like comedies, documentaries, sports, and business. My plea to the therapist was to help me to be able to relate to my daughter.
She asked me to describe my daughter. I did so, as any proud father would. Then, she asked Hannah to describe me. It sounded very flattering, but one statement stood out and stopped me in my tracks. At one point, Hannah said, “dad works hard; his job is the most important thing to him.” “What?” I thought, “No it’s not. You and your sister are the most important things in my life.” You see, through my lens, I was a hard-working, single father, who busted his butt to provide for his kids. Through Hannah’s lens, I worked so hard because my job was the most important thing in my life.
In that moment, I leaned on God for strength and stripped myself of my ego, resisted getting defensive, and I threw away my lens and started to see myself through Hannah’s lens. My life, and our relationship, pivoted that day and took a radically positive turn. Today, we are the best of friends, even though I still haven’t made it through a Harry Potter or Marvel movie (LOL).
Empathy is extremely underrated in business. Having the ability to see things through the lens of someone else allows us to not only see what they see but feel what they feel as well. This little nugget has been one of the greatest lessons of my life. It has set me free from always trying to get others to understand “where I’m coming from” because instead, I spend my time trying to understand where it is they are coming from. It also allows me to communicate with others in a language that they are comfortable with and can understand, as opposed to imposing my own means of communicating and expecting them to receive it well. The best way to speak to someone from Greece is to speak Greek, not louder and slower English (LOL).