Empathy Styles and friendship – how does that work?

I caught Thought for the Day on the Today programme on Radio 4 last Friday. The speaker was talking about Cardinal Newman and his up-coming beatification on Sunday. The discussion was around the search for truth about which the Cardinal had written: “men must have chronic familiarity to understand each other for truth slowly sinks into the mind”. And while I didn’t get the complete sense of that immediately the phrase “chronic familiarity” seemed to strike a chord with me as it made me think of friendship.

Years ago when I used to give a seminar on Time Management we spoke about the value of friends and how easy it is to get busy and lose touch with those we love. I would ask the audience if they remembered about friends. I joked that friends were the people who knew all about us and still liked us (I don’t claim that that is original!) – they didn’t want to sell us anything nor did they want to marry us.

My own recollection is of Peter, my best friend until we went to different schools and somehow lost touch, even though we still only lived 200 yards from each other. He was the youngest of 7 boys so his mother was used to having kids in and out of the house all the time. I could have knocked on their door at any time and would be welcomed in and given a biscuit and orange squash without any reason being asked for.

So what now of friends? I literally thank God for all the people that know all about me and still like me. And as my thoughts turn to Empathy as we develop a new website, I’m wondering how many of our friends are actually very different from us in Empathy terms. In other words having very different temperaments from us and we still like them. How come we know and like these people and yet can so easily scorn the behaviour of others who may be similarly different? Could it be that in taking a moment longer (or maybe in some cases, several moments!) to get to know someone of a very different Empathy style they could eventually become a friend?

So perhaps looking to understand friendship through an understanding of Empathy is one of those life situations, like romantic love, where our Empathy style is not the most important element. Perhaps something else is going on which may have to do with understanding or love or helpfulness or maybe it’s just plain ‘chronic familiarity’. (And for me, I discovered a year ago where Peter is now living, or rather he found me, and although we haven’t met up yet, we will. But I know that we will have lost that ‘chronic familiarity’ that we had as 9 year olds.)

Please contact me for more information on Empathy Styles – I’m always happy to answer questions – walter.blackburn@empathystyles.com or 0845 122 7117

1 Comment so far

  1. Bob Hayward @ September 22nd, 2010

    Thanks Walter

    Friends are a fascinating aspect of life – I set myself the goal a few years back of recoverying 5 friendships with people who were once an apparently vital part of my life. Time – focus and in some cases differences of opinions ahd seperated us.

    The personality types across those I consider my nearest and dearest is widely varied and while things about them irritate me – as I guess my traits irritate them – I rejoice in their company.

    It has been a good goal to take action on and while some choose not to re-connect most have. Both the lessons from the journey and the renewed friendship have added greatly to the richness of life..

    Regards – Bob

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