I spoke last Thursday morning at Booking.com‘s annual employee meeting, on the subject of empathy and how it can transform your work and your life–and how crucial it is that we as a species get more on board with embracing empathy and compassion.
I had a lovely trip, despite departing in a heavy ice storm. My KLM flight was cancelled, so they helpfully rebooked me on United, departing a half-hour later, at 4 PM. A slight delay at the gate, then a *four hour* delay on the tarmac waiting our turn to de-ice, and off we go. Booking put me up in a decent-but-nothing-fancy hotel, conveniently right across the street from the RAI, where the conference was to be held.
The conference team was wonderfully well-organized, and the technical team for my presentation (eight people!) was smartly professional about everything, and (of course) it went off without a hitch.
My talk was well-received. As is usual for this talk, I got swarmed by folks coming down front after the talk, to tell their own stories, to thank me, to collect hugs, and (in a couple of cases) to cry on my shoulder or ask advice about dealing with unempathetic people in their own lives.
One was a young Syrian man, probably in his late 20s. He told me that one of his brothers had disappeared in the civil war there, and part of his family was in a city that was surrounded, in an attempt to starve the people out. A pair of young women came to me asking whether they should give up the path of empathy because of criticism from a colleague (No!). Several more told me stories of the pain and loss in their own lives, and how my presentation encouraged them to open up to their peers, and find the people who care about them in their own communities.
One sent me an email, which I read that night at the hotel. He thanked me for opening his eyes to the shortcomings in his own use of his natural empathy in recent months. The wake-up call sent him onto a phone call with his partner for an uncomfortable conversation, which left him “sad and exhilarated,” and he thanked me for the brutal honesty. His story was so touching and beautiful, I had a long, hard cry after reading it–the realization finally hit, and hit hard, that I’m actually making a difference in people’s lives. It’s a wonderful, scary feeling.
I spent Friday touring Amsterdam and reconnecting with friends, and getting interviewed for an upcoming podcast (keep an eye out for that soon!). I met so many wonderful people in Amsterdam, including several other outside speakers (hat-tips to Penny Locaso, Dorie Clark, Daniela Papi, Yossi Ghinsberg, and Adam Conlon). Each and every one of them is a top-shelf pro, and an amazing person, and I’m honored to have gotten to meet them.
…but I’m glad to be home.