Odyssey of Life: You're a Leader? This is Why Your Love Life Matters

Before anything else, the title focuses on an entrepreneurial perspective which I'll give at the end. But this post is for anyone in a relationship with another human being; be it in the capacity of a boyfriend or girlfriend, spouse, parent or child, mentor or mentee, employer or employee, or even as a friend. Ever wondered what is going on in someone else's head? Through this post try my best to give you a solution.

Secondly this is an unofficial book review of one of the greatest books on human relations I've read in my very short life: The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. The book is written on a character trait that I believe is just as essential to relationships as love is; EMPATHY. In this post I'm going to be talking about the power of empathy, why it is as important as love, why you cannot expect to have meaningful relationships without empathy and why as an entrepreneur empathy is as crucial as being able to read and understand financial statements when it comes to managing your business.

What is empathy?

Well according to Merriam-Webster, 'empathy is the feeling that you understand and share another person's experiences and emotions or the ability to share someone else's feelings.' In other words empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else's shoes, figuratively speaking.

In The Five Love Languages Gary Chapman talks about how - just like how we interpret communication in different languages; English, French, Setswana, Kinyarwanda etc., we also interpret love in different languages. He mentions five overarching languages of love and says each of us has one love language that communicates love to us. I'd recommend reading the book, it changed my perspective of love from what I thought it is to what it is to the person I'm expressing it to. The book requires us to view love from the person you're expressing it to and not from your own perspective. It promotes putting yourself in that person's shoes, it promotes forsaking your expectations of love and fully committing to understanding what drives someone else. It promotes empathy. Again if you have not read the book, I'd advise you to do so.

Now to why it's so important...Gary Chapman says we cannot express love effectively if we aren't empathetic. He says if "je comprends fran├žais seulement" communicating to me in English is pointless. No matter how much you try explain in English if I don't speak English we're wasting each other's time. And the same is for love, some people communicate love in the form of gifts, others in physical touch, some in words of affirmation (compliments, 'thank yous' and 'I appreciate yous') and some want quality time. In your world gifts communicate love but for your partner, quality time does. So you spend hours working to make money to buy her gifts when all she wants is your time. And before you know it, you're frustrated because she seems unhappy despite your efforts to really love her the best way YOU know how. Gary Chapman says we need to understand someone else's love language to effectively communicate love to them.

I concur but I'd like to take it a step further and say empathy isn't just necessary for love but is foundation of human relations. Our lives are a sum total of decisions and choices made on a fixed scale of time. And our decisions are driven by values, perceptions and circumstances. Meaning our decisions are personal...and yes, decisions made through peer pressure are a personal choice, you chose peer acceptance over whatever values you're contradicting by making that decision. We have all reached a point where we wished we knew what was going through someone's head when they made 'that' decision. The solution to that is empathy. Empathetic people are the least judgemental because before they can render a verdict on a decision or its outcome, they normally try understand why. And because they ask why, they are normally granted the opportunity to find out. An opportunity to get to know the person better; their values, perceptions and how they react to a wide array of circumstances. Through empathy we get a chance to explore relational expectations.

From an entrepreneurial and leadership perspective, empathy goes to the heart of understanding what drives your workers and the people you're leading. Why they show up every morning, why they do the work you give them, why some work harder than others, why an increment in salaries does not always guarantee a proportional increment in productivity. Empathy makes you a better leader.

Business, or entrepreneurship, for international appeal, is the effective employment of resources to meet a need at a profit (Ephraim dictionary). The key question is what resources are we talking about? We're talking about Financial and Human (Relational). As business leaders we have to know how to effectively employ our workforce and network just as much as we should know how to do so with our financial capital. An empathetic leader is a connected leader, a connected leader is an understanding leader, an understanding leader is an understood leader and an understood leader is an influential leader. The influence you need to get the best from the team you lead comes from your ability to be understood, and to be understood you need to understand them.

The adoption of empathy is the beginning of understanding...people.

So yes reading a book about love can make you a better leader...practice empathy in your love life and you'll be surprised how your professional life will turn out.


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