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Not everyone on the planet is lovable. A few aren’t all that likeable. Keep in mind that this is “lovable” and “likeable” from our own perspective. Individuals that we don’t care for at all usually have a few people who love them to pieces.

In our personal lives, it’s a good idea to eschew people who do not share our fundamental values or are mean-spirited. We come to be like the five people that we hang around the most. Choose wisely. It’s okay to create distance between ourselves and people who are negative and make us feel bad.

However, at work we don’t get to choose with whom we interact. Negative, callous coworkers and bosses are always a challenge. They are also pervasive; it doesn’t do a lot of good to leave one organization because another set of negative people will be waiting at the next place.

More challenging still is the fact that great leaders care about everyone in the organization. The adage “People don’t care what you know until they know that you care” is true. One of the ways that leaders create personal influence is by truly caring about the health and welfare of their peers, employees, and bosses.

In workshops, I get a lot of pushback on this topic. “How could I possibly care about this person?” they cry. There is a way to create empathy for everyone, but it requires some work and determination. I remind them that no one said that it was easy to become an exceptional leader.

One of the best ways to shift our attitudes and feelings about even the most unlovable people is the Loving Kindness Meditation. Its results are well-researched. Loving Kindness Meditation increases our empathy for others, as well as our feelings of friendliness and compassion.

The meditation is easy. There are no right or wrong ways to do it, but there are guidelines. You can search online and find all types of Loving Kindness Meditations. Many of my participants like the Christian versions. What’s important is that we create statements to use in the meditation that have the most power and meaning for us.

Basically, during the Loving Kindness Meditation, we say three or four phrases to ourselves first. The most important thing is to create and hold onto feelings of friendliness, joy, compassion, and expansiveness as you say the phrases. Here is an example:

  • May I be filled with loving kindness.
  • May I be well in body and mind.
  • May I be at ease and happy.

Then, we say the same phrases while thinking of someone with whom we feel close. We start by thinking, “May [name of loved one] be filled with loving kindness.” It’s important to hold onto the positive feeling while thinking each phrase about our loved ones. Then, we move on to someone that we feel neutral about, someone we don’t really care for, and finally everyone in the world. Use the same three to four phrases each time.

Research shows that this specific type of meditation also increases positivity – which is another important foundation for the lives of leaders. A positive attitude motivates others and increases workplace morale.

In case you need some more motivation to take on this daily practice, here are some more benefits that result from an increase in positivity: increased resiliency, increased satisfaction with life, less inflammation in your body, increased broad-mindedness, increased immunity to viruses, better ability to connect with others, less depression, and better focus. Wow! That’s quite a list! Who doesn’t want all that?

This practice can be a game changer in our lives. We will see results with 10 minutes of meditation five or six times a week. The challenge is to incorporate Loving Kindness Meditation into our lives for eight weeks. By then, we should see results that will have positive effects in both our personal and professional lives. Remember, the key is to hold on to positive and expansive feelings while thinking the phrases. The words alone won’t create any change.

Empathy and caring are skills that we can develop. The ability to see a person as a person and not a nuisance or a bother is crucial for leaders. We can’t influence or motivate someone until we have created a positive relationship with him or her. Ultimately, a leader’s job is to help everyone to be successful – that’s a lot easier on both sides if we genuinely care about the people we are helping.

For a little bit of fun leadership development, join 53 Leadership Challenges at KathyStoddardTorrey.com.

Want to go further with your professional development? Check out the courses offered at PositiveEffectLeadership.com.

If you are interested in taking your career to the next level quickly, contact me for a sample coaching session at KSTorrey@tapferconsulting.com.