Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Empathy scripts for the workplace

I read a post and comments from an April 23rd recently reprinted at Autism and Empathy that got me to thinking about the scripts we use to get by in our lives, especially at work. It can be a bit overwhelming to keep track of all the programmed responses we keep in our heads when it comes to the dynamic environments of work or school.

For me it is not so much that I lack empathy but that I have to fuel my empathic responses with sympathetic statements. The initial impact of a co-worker, friend or acquaintance telling me that they lost a loved one, are getting married or feel guilt at some action of theirs kind of gets lost in my struggle to keep up during the day. Later, when I get a moment, it may hit me "oh, I should have said..." and then I am sending an e-mil trying to repair any damage. To compensate I drilled into my brain responses and even ways to color the responses so that they do not sound programmed... this has been helped by my experiencing many of the common events people encounter. Still when a good friend of mine mentioned that he still felt guilt at the last conversation he had with his niece before her fatal car accident I was at a loss and could only speak gentle platitudes.

So much in the vein of the blog post I did on remembering periodic tasks I suggest you transpose the scripts from your head to a document that you review occasionally. Things like "what to do when a co-worker tells you of the loss of a loved one" and "congratulations on the birth of a child" can go a long way to helping you maintain and extend the social ties at work. It may seem silly but really is it any more silly than trying to understand the emotional drama that seems commonplace in the NT world? And if it helps you keep your job or even advance at work then it might be worth it.

Post that got it started: http://www.autismandempathy.com/?p=51

Update: another article I found on Autism & Empathy: On the matter of Empathy

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