We may be able to easily empathize with some of the above mentioned groups whereas it is more challenging (maybe even triggering) to be asked to empathize with others. This may be due to the nature of our roles, age, positionality with regards to power or oppression, or an unidentified reason.
Empathy is a central factor in building and maintaining relationships, especially with those we are experiencing conflict, disagreement or some other barrier for moving forward with a shared goal. However, without it, we may not be able to really connect with the other person, in order to re-ground in what is needed. The article, “Why Empathy is Key for your Relationships”, from The HuffPost, describes 5 steps to building empathy to improve relationships.
It is through maintaining empathetic and authentic relationships that enables people to be open to addressing and moving through barriers. There are many different situations in which relationship can support better outcomes for students: a student engaging in a behavioral intervention, a teacher implementing an accommodations, a dean using restorative practices, a parent providing feedback about an IEP, or a principal making certain decisions about resource allocation.
I sometimes have the instinct to jump into problem-solving mode when working on school-wide dilemmas with school principals. But almost every time, I am reminded that it is a balancing act of being able to move forward with strategic planning while at the same time holding space for folks to experience and process their emotional reaction to the situation at hand; to empathize with them, to slow the process down.
Working in a highly stressed, under-resourced environment is challenging. There is a standing invitation for all of us to get swept up in the frenetic energy that shows up easily in the face of trauma and crisis. I have noticed that I am best able to resist this invitation when I am grounded and taking good care of myself. This is also when I do my best work and to have the most positive impact on my partnerships.
The term self-care means different things to different people. I have linked two articles that discuss self- care practices from different perspectives. Both resonate and share insightful ways that we can all consider as we commit to taking care of ourselves.
The first article, “Indigenous Self-Care Practices for Organizers.” comes from the Mijente Blog. The author, Veralucia Mendoza identifies as a queer, Afro-Peruvian immigrant and speaks with Fracisca Porchas, a Mijente member and organizer with Puente Human Rights Movement. They discuss how going back to our roots can support restoration.
The second article is called Mindfulness: “10 Lessons in Self-Care for Social Workers”, from The New Social Worker. “The practice of mindfulness is integral to our efforts to reduce stress and to increase our capacity to cope (Kabat-Zinn, 1990). Although mindfulness is best learned and reinforced through sustained and regular practice, many mindfulness-based strategies can be incorporated into daily life activities at any time (Boyce, 2012; Burdick, 2013; Fralich, 2013; Stahl & Goldstein, 2010). Practicing these techniques will not prevent stress completely or take it away when it occurs, but doing them with care and attention on a regular basis can help us manage more effectively. Here are several to consider.”
As this year continues to roll along, please take good care of yourselves and stay in relationship with each other!