LTS Podcast Ep. 8: Learning Empathy With Dr. Nicole Price

Jonathan Jones: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to this episode of the Lift the Spirit podcast. This is Jonathan Jones and I'm joined today by my co-host Aaron Heim.

Aaron Heim: Hello.

Jonathan Jones: And we have a very special guest. We have Dr. Nicole Price who lives here in Kansas City. She is the CEO of Lively Paradox, an organization that helps individuals and companies and other organizations in the DE& I space, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

I got to know Dr. Price a couple of years ago when she did some work for us here at DEMDACO. But today, we have her here to talk about her new book, Spark the Heart, Engineering Empathy in Your Organization. This is, I read a lot. I sent her a text when I finished this book, just saying how much I enjoyed it.

It really is an amazing book, and we'll tell you how you can get a copy of it at the end of the podcast. But, Dr. Price, welcome. Thank you very much for joining us.

Dr. Nicole Price: Thanks for having me.

Jonathan Jones: Can you tell [00:01:00] us a little bit about Lively Paradox and the work that you do?

Dr. Nicole Price: Yeah, my background is in engineering, and while I was in engineering, I found out that many people in HR think that engineers can't be good leaders.

And because of that bias, It's oftentimes engineering managers, plant managers don't always get invited to some of what's called, I don't know, high performance leadership development programs. And so when I was in HR for a

brief spell, my focus was on engineers and technical professionals and teaching them how to lead.

And I got an opportunity to just. that, especially in the way that we think, all of the difference that we have based on the jobs we find, our lived experiences, they matter. And they make things a little more complicated and hard to deal with, sometimes in the beginning. And so I [00:02:00] started my firm specifically around how do you create leaders who know how to help difference get along.

Whatever that difference is. is, and I don't take an HR approach to that, the moral compass being the reason that you do these things, but really just showing that it makes good, logical, reasonable sense to make sure you're getting the best out of your people. And that's what we do at my firm. We, we help people get the best out of everyone who's on their team.

Jonathan Jones: Well, I know for me, you have a recommended book list that I started and I know it's an organic book list. And so it's, it's really helped me in my own journey. Just really learn and unlearn a lot. So I've appreciated your book list.

Can we put that in the, the podcast notes, the link to your book list?

Dr. Nicole Price: Yeah, it's there. I probably should create one that I think is helpful for empathy .Funny story. Jonathan sent me a note in LinkedIn and he was like, Hey, have you read this book? [00:03:00] I'm like, yeah. And the other five that person wrote, here's a list for you, sir .

Jonathan Jones: No, it was great. It was great.

Dr. Nicole Price: It's, I think it's, you know, it's not comprehensive, but it's, it's a good way to get your, your toe into the DEI space. If you don't know much about it.

Jonathan Jones: Dr. Price, we're here to talk about. your new book about empathy. But before that, you start the book talking about your mother. Can you tell us about your mother and why she is such a part of this book?

Because you talk about her in the beginning and the end.

Dr. Nicole Price: Yeah, you know, my mom can mostly be described as a Christian cook. So she cooked all the time. It was her way to show love. It was

her way to be sympathetic with you. If there was a sorrowful thing that happened, it was the way to celebrate. It was the way for everything.

Food surrounded everything in our family. And she was the food ministry leader at our church, [00:04:00] which simply meant that when there was a large event at the church, she would organize all the volunteers to serve and all the food to cook and, but that extended beyond just the church walls into our actual home.

And I like to paint a picture for what this looks like because I think most people can't quite understand it. But You wake up and you prep food. And then you cook food. And then you clean up. And then you prep food for again. And then you cook food. And then you clean up. And then you prep food. And then you cook food.

Jonathan Jones: Was she a clean as you go?

Dr. Nicole Price: She was a clean as you go. But it felt like all day was just surrounding food, and what was important about that was that people knew that whenever they came that there would be food there. Yeah. And, like, always food there. Hot food, like nothing, no sandwiches kind of thing, like full meals.[00:05:00]

And, I, I think on the surface that sounds like, oh that's really nice. But imagine being a, a child and there's 40, 50 people, some of whom you know and some you don't, coming through your house all day. It can be a little dis, disruptive. Yeah. And we only had one bathroom in my house growing up and it was upstairs.

And you know how you just kind of leave your toothbrush out and things like that? Like, I never did stuff like that because I'm like, what if some random person decides they're going to touch my toothbrush or use it? My mom didn't think about any of that. It was just, you know, what you do is feed people who are hungry.

And when she, when she died, you would think that our little small 200 person church would have been a sizable enough sanctuary for a funeral for someone who, at large, I mean, she's not famous or rich or [00:06:00] any of those things. But it was very clear that we were going to need a much bigger facility. A venue.

Venue. We, we printed a thousand programs for her funeral and we ran out. And there was standing room only at the Metropolitan Missionary Baptist

Church, which holds over a thousand people. And to hear people talk about her was just a testament to the fact that she, I think mostly was just a good listener, but in addition to that, always wanted to make sure that if someone was hungry, she was there to feed them.

Jonathan Jones: Which is an incredible act of empathy. And, you know, our podcast is called Lift the Spirit. That's DEMDACO's mission. And I was, as I was reading your book, I just realized time and time again how those kind of go hand in hand, that if you are lifting someone's spirit or conversely, if you were being empathetic to someone.

Probably is a better way to say it. Then [00:07:00] you are lifting their spirit, sometimes through food, sometimes through encouragement. So talk a little bit more about the significance of your mom feeding people as an act of empathy. Was there anything in her background that shaped her?

Dr. Nicole Price: Yeah, my mom had lots of trauma.

And I much of it she wouldn't go into great detail about. But I think I mentioned, in fact I know I mentioned in the book that, you know, she had scars and things on her arms that I know were from some childhood abuse things. And there's a quote I ran into once that said, Beautiful people don't just happen.

That typically there's some forging that has occurred in the process. But she was... The oldest child to my maternal grandmother born in Coahoma County, Mississippi, you know, during [00:08:00] the height of the Jim Crow era. If listeners don't know, I'm, I'm black, so, and my mom was too. And so Mississippi is a, is an interesting place if you are living in rural Mississippi in the, in the early 40s with that experience.

And somewhere around nineteen sixty five . My dad's family was kind of run away from Mississippi and their entire farm taken and they left kind of in the middle of the night. My mom left with them and they came to Kansas City and, you know, built a life here for me and my siblings. But she, what I, what I always think is interesting about what she was able to do, because I do think that my mom, and I say this, is the reason why I wasn't as empathetic, it felt like there was no end to the amount of cooking and listening and serving and all the things. And [00:09:00] as a young person with schoolwork you have to do and aspirations you want to achieve, it just felt overwhelming. And I found myself kind of taking this kind of objective, separating from people approach to just be able to handle what I think she had built years and fortitude around. So, I don't know. I, I will say that one thing I'm trying to help people understand though, is that while yes, empathy helps you lift spirits, sometimes when you're

empathetic, when you're really listening to people and understanding them, you learn something about how awful sometimes the human spirit can be too.

What does it take in those moments in order to make the next right decision? It takes courage [00:10:00] and and everybody has enough courage to do it if we, if we practice, I think.

Aaron Heim: So Dr. Price, I know you're a pretty prolific writer. Why this subject matter? Why this book? What struck your heart about having to create this work?

Dr. Nicole Price: You know, interestingly enough, I was at an event here in Kansas City. with some of our most wealthy members.

And I was teaching a session around anti racism and one of the members, very kind, incredibly nice man, at the end of the session said, "Dr. Price, thank you for this. And I get everything you are saying intellectually. I was hoping you'd help me get it emotionally." I was stuck there a little bit, but he went on to say that when he goes to his home behind his [00:11:00] gated community, on his private jet, these things just don't impact him.

And, leaning into empathy, you don't judge that statement. You try to see what's behind that statement. And in seeing what's behind that statement, he's saying, I need you to help me care. Right? Yeah. And there are a whole bunch of things. I could think about that. And so I thought, you know, somebody needs to write a book about how to empathize with people who have different lived experiences than you.

And it kept coming back to me. You are the person. So I went and talked to my spiritual advisor and said, dude, I, no way should I be the one, I'm the worst person to write a book about empathy. He laughs. You're the best person to talk about empathy.

Jonathan Jones: And I like that you call your spiritual advisor dude.[00:12:00]

Dr. Nicole Price: Yeah, I'm over talking over at Church of the Resurrection talking to Pastor Adam, they're a client of mine, and I mentioned it to him thinking he was going to come up with somebody else who should write a book about empathy, or maybe he would, you know? He laughs. You're the best person to talk about empathy.

And what I started to recognize was that there are people who are naturally empathetic. It's a real small segment of the American population. Lots of people

think they're naturally empathetic. If there's anything I've learned through this process. is that's not true. Now, I don't know, this is not scientific, but I'd say less than 10 percent of us are naturally empathetic.

But empathy can be learned, and I learned it. And I think that's why people think I should be the one talking about it. Because I know what it's like to not be empathetic, necessarily. I [00:13:00] know how to build the skill. It's not natural.

Jonathan Jones: And that's one of the key things I want to talk about. So I'm a certified Gallup CliftonStrengths coach, which used to be strength finders.

And one of the things it measures for is empathy. And what I've realized that people who their empathy is lower in the 34 strengths that they measure for that I described in terms of that you probably tend to be situationally empathetic, not just, not that you lead with empathy. So I want to get your input on that and just in the book when you talk about the different types of how empathy shows up, I thought it was really insightful as well.

So there are a lot of notes in this book, so I always send, here's what I want to talk about and I could have probably filled up three or four pages of let's talk about this. But on page 17 in the book, you do reference the other Gallup tool, the Q 12 employee engagement survey, which we use here [00:14:00] at DEMDACO.

And it's my favorite. It's question 10 on the survey, and it's I have a best friend at work, and it's and it's the one that they get the most pushback. I get pushback, and it's like my best friend. We met in third grade. I don't And, and I always like to say, who's your go to person at work? So I, I laughed out loud when you referenced this.

So talk about the importance of, of having a best friend at work. And I'm just kind of selfishly, I'm using you to help boost this is an important thing to have in a survey.

Dr. Nicole Price: Okay. I have to be honest though, and first say that I was the worst person at giving people grief about that question. I mean, it should say friend at work or something, I think.

When it says best friend, I think we get stuck on that idea. Like, dude, I got like one best friend and they ain't here, let's be clear.

Jonathan Jones: Have you seen their chief scientist talk about why they want people to pause?

Dr. Nicole Price: They want you to pause and think about [00:15:00] your, your, your confidant.

Listen, I'm all in on the best friend at work question now.

Because Because when my best friend at work wasn't there anymore, work was not as fun. You know, this guy and I would get ready for meetings together after the meeting. We, you know, we'd do our little discussions, our little meetings after the meetings together. We would go to lunch together, everything.

And when he wasn't there, it's like work then became just work. And I think some of why I was excited to even go to work was to, to be able to engage with him. And I don't think you realize that until your best friend's not at work anymore.

Jonathan Jones: And that you need to have that one person for empathy. to show up sort of, so to speak.

I mean, you want it in the organization, but you need someone who's gonna be empathetic to your celebration and your frustrations.

Dr. Nicole Price: Absolutely. Absolutely. And there's [00:16:00] some data that says even children who are in kind of the worst school districts with the worst possible life experiences, if they have one trusting adult that they are likely going to be okay.

And so now I'm, and I support the best friend at work question that supported, you know,

Jonathan Jones: On page 52, where this chapter is on listening and you say something that I've never heard it said this way before. You talk about your background as an engineer, where it's all about the facts.

Just give me the data. And we all have been those people or are those people or know those people who they just want. Just give me the facts. Talk about in the way you said in the book is listen for understanding, not accuracy. And tell us what you mean there and also how [00:17:00] that is empathetic.

Dr. Nicole Price: It's really hard, by the way.

It's simple, but it's not easy to listen for understanding instead of accuracy. I'm trained to listen for accuracy. Engineers need to be precise and accurate. If I get it wrong, you might have a little too much of an active ingredient in your prescription. Kill you. The bomb doesn't go off when it's supposed to.

The plane doesn't elevate at the right altitude. These can be very dangerous. But when we're trying to connect with humans, we have to remember that people are not processes. And while we might want our processes to be accurate and precise, our relationships with are just generally a little more fluid and need some, some grace area.

And it was my own therapist who, [00:18:00] she's since fired me by the way. We can talk about that on another podcast. She told me the importance of listening for understanding. And basically the idea is, That whatever another person feels makes total sense to them and how we react to their feelings will determine how much they trust us, how much they want to engage with us, how much they even like us.

And there's an example that she often uses that says, If I say, we haven't spent any time together. Any time. We have not spent any time together. So the engineer goes, We were just together last week, like what we did spend time and then would start to debate your any statement by telling [00:19:00] you what we spend time on Tuesday and Thursday and then all day on Sunday, you know, we were together.

Not helpful for human connection.

Jonathan Jones: How often have you found either personally or in your work where a meaningful conversation or conflict that needs to be resolved gets off the rails because of factual inaccuracy?

Dr. Nicole Price: I would say almost always because when we're upset and I don't mean intentional. Oh yeah, of course.

When we're upset or unhappy, cause that's usually where this becomes an issue, we're more likely to speak in absolutes, never, always, you know, and we sensationalize because I want you to understand me and I'm going to sensationalize to try to get you to listen. And if we think about the spirit of what someone's trying to say, which is, I want to spend more time with [00:20:00] you.

Now I can make better decisions. And I think that's the critical point. When, when people think about empathy, they think about this thing where they're just

giving, giving, giving. But if you can truly understand the spirit of what other people are trying to say and what they need, you can make better decisions in your life, personally and professionally.

Aaron Heim: I didn't know this was going to be a podcast on parenting as well, but as a father of teenagers, I'm starting to... Oh, yeah. Let's maybe I'll approach it that way from here on out. Yeah. So I think there's a lot of parallels. It's just, it's a, it's a start early situation. I think when you said it's their truth and how you react to their truth is, is how they determine how much they're going to engage.

Dr. Nicole Price: Yeah.

Jonathan Jones: And I think it's easy and our kids are all grown. We have five grandkids as a parent and then we, we, you know, play the role of prosecuting attorney very quickly. Yeah. you got that wrong. So [00:21:00] I'm going to dismiss everything that you say when the empathetic approach would be, let me try and hear what you're saying.

And that's, that's hard.

Dr. Nicole Price: I love talking about parent child relationships because it's one of the only Privileged, non privileged relationships, where the privileged people, i. e. the parents, have been in the underprivileged spot, and then still do the thing that was done to them.

Jonathan Jones: Oh, wow. It's true. It's true.

Dr. Nicole Price: We understand. We have walked in the shoes of our children before, and yet we still forget how to empathize with their perspective.

Jonathan Jones: So Dr. Price, in the book, it's on page 88 the note that I put is, How do attempts to share that you've experienced something similar show a lack of empathy? And I know for me, I, have this internal dialogue when I'm, you know, listening to people or someone comes to me and they've gone through something very [00:22:00] difficult.

I know out of good faith I'm trying to empathize and communicate. I've gone through something similar. But how does that... Shut that person down and really, in reality, show a lack of empathy and it's really just us talking about ourselves.

Dr. Nicole Price: Yeah, I, you know, in general, I want people to know that I am speaking in sweeping generalizations.

There are exceptions to some of the things that I'm sharing. But if you come to me and you're telling me about something you've experienced, If my first thought is to say, Oh yeah, me too. My reflective question is, Am I really listening? Am I there for that person? Or have I been listening to respond?

And if my first thought is, Oh yes, me too. [00:23:00] Then it's usually an indication that I'm listening, waiting on my opportunity to respond. But there, there are good reasons to let someone know that they're not alone. The challenge is, you had to have listened first, well, and thoroughly. Before you can ever say, yes, me too, because you might be off base actually in, in what you're sharing and that just makes the other person really internalize that you weren't listening to them in that moment.

Jonathan Jones: Yeah. When, when I, as I've gotten older, I think I've gotten a bit better, but I literally sometimes have this internal dialogue in my head while I'm listening. Saying,. Be quiet. Don't say anything. Just listen. Be quiet.

Dr. Nicole Price: It's the, there's a book called The Introvert's Advantage . And I think there should be one called The Extrovert's Dilemma too.

Because of course listening is a little, it seems, let me clarify, it seems easier for the [00:24:00] introvert. But that, all of that internal energy and processing is happening, it's just inside. Yeah. And so the other person doesn't always necessarily feel it. But for those of us who are extroverted, we need help to stop that thinking out loud.

Jonathan Jones: So, what would you say if you do have a shared experience? that you know is going to be beneficial to the conversation. Yeah. What's your recommendation on how you should handle that? And, and to be able to wait and listen, but still be, still within the context of an empathetic response, but you're sharing that shared experience.

Dr. Nicole Price: I learned this in an unconventional way through coaching, actually. So, at the executive level, when you're coaching, You just ask questions and listen and listen, and you're doing that for about 20 minutes before you ever give any advice. And I have a model that's free and available to anybody who wants to, [00:25:00] to see it.

But when you hear someone else's problem, the answer is obvious to you because it's not close to you. You know, it's like if you take your hand and put it on your nose. then you don't really see your hand. You're, you're clouded by the fact that your hand is in your face, but if you pull it out in front of you, you can see it clearly.

It's called clarity of distance. So when you're separated from an issue, even your ability to say, Oh, now this has happened to me, is because of clarity of distance. So what I, what I train coaches, and this is just good for general practice, ask some clarifying questions, listen for understanding. Be sure you've heard everything accurately before you ever say anything.

And then you might ask, I think I have a shared experience. Would you like to, would that be helpful to you in this moment? I've never had anybody say no to that question, because by the time I've been [00:26:00] listened to, if I feel like I've been heard, well, yeah, please tell me about the time you've dealt with this and helped me figure out a way.

But people don't want that right away. That's the differentiator. You have to listen first. That's all.

Jonathan Jones: Because then it turns into I'm one upping you with my...

Dr. Nicole Price: Mine is worse. Wait till you hear this.

Jonathan Jones: It's interesting. I read, not last year somewhere. Maybe my wife Maria sent me this quote. That when someone, something bad happens to someone, like maybe a pet dies or whatever it is, and you've experienced something much worse, they said you have to remember for that person, that's their worst day they've had so far.

So it's equal to your worst day. And when I thought about the impact of that, I was like, okay, you need to just listen.

Aaron Heim: [00:27:00] Alright, so, Dr. Price, I believe empathy is the most essential quality of civilization. That is not my quote, that is a Roger Ebert quote that you chose to include in the book. Can you speak to that a little bit and why that resonated so strongly with you?

Dr. Nicole Price: Before I was taking an active role in working on my own empathy, Which wasn't by choice, by the way. I met a gentleman who was, probably oozes empathy and compassion. And he, without telling me, took me through a series of exercises over four and a half years to teach me more empathy. And I remember the day I realized what he was doing.

I was saying something to him that sounded like him and not like me. And I was like, Oh my gosh! You've been working with me on this for four or five years. And he just laughed because he had been. [00:28:00] And the challenge is that empathy, while it can be learned, is not typically something that happens fast.

That's not if you're learning it through exercises. You can, you can learn it fast. I say God specializes in the fast track business. There's a, there's a way to learn empathy quickly. You might not like it. but in, in class it happens really slowly. And I, in, I use this quote at the beginning of this chapter called what sparked your empathy because I was talking about a client situation related to a parking lot.

And. And this particular organization hired returning citizens from prisons, which, as you can imagine, presents its own set of challenges because people have more challenges when they've been in prison for a decade or so. And the day I was there they had just towed one of their employee's cars from the parking lot.

And the cost of the tow was like 250 bucks or something. I don't remember exactly, but whatever it was, this woman would have had to work [00:29:00] 10 hours to get the money. 10 hours pre taxes to be able to get her car out of the lot. And you couldn't just, she had the kind of job where you couldn't just leave, which many of us have the privilege to do.

She also couldn't just say, Hey, I'm taking off tomorrow either. You had to plan your days off unless you're going to call in sick, which would then cause you problems around your bonus. And so I was, they said something about her parking in the, in the wrong spot three times. And I was, my question, because of ignorance, clarity of distance was, well, are there enough spots?

Like who willingly parks in the wrong spot at work? Nobody in my head. And one of the leaders thought that there were enough spots, but there was another one there who said actually during the shift overlap, and they had just decided that they were going to have people overlapping shifts, were about 15 spots short.

And so I just stood there for a moment to [00:30:00] see if the obvious would become obvious to them. And it wasn't. Because one of them said, well, you should just, she should come earlier. And I was a little judgy if I'm just being honest. In this moment I said, well, then wouldn't that mean somebody else would just not then have a parking space because you're short. So I I talked to Dr. Dr. Roberts. I talked about him extensively in the book and shared like what had just happened. And we're fans of. And Jonathan, you know this, not teaching things, but allowing people to arrive at ideas. So at the beginning of our session, we asked people who had been raised in poverty.

And people were reluctant to raise their hands, but I said, okay, don't worry about that. Those of you who have experienced poverty and I don't mean just you couldn't get what you want, but like [00:31:00] poverty. What were some

things that would make you late to work? And people said things like not having electricity, needing to shower at someone else's house.

Car not starting, you don't have another one, the bus is late, you had to get somebody else where they were supposed to be, and you don't have a second car, I mean just the list went on and on and on. And, and I asked them when they thought about their employees, how many of them did they think had probably had a poverty experience.

And then I shared what happened with the woman's car. And said. Think back to when you had all those experiences with no money. If your car got towed and it cost you 250 to get out of the tow lot, what was going to happen? And before I even got my sentence finished, someone said, [00:32:00] I've lost it. I lost that car.

Because tomorrow I'm not going to have the fee plus the extra. And then the day after that, and the bill's just going to keep going and I don't have a way. So I've lost my car. And I said, so if someone has lost their car. Then what happens? Now I don't have a way to get to work. And then what happens? And then what happens?

And we just walk through that scenario. By the end, to their credit, the plant manager had agreed to get her car out of the tow lot. And then also, they worked with a ride sharing company to create some opportunities or options for people for a lower cost. They created a van pool. So just some things to be able to support their folks.

And why I think the Roger Ebert quote is, is helpful is because without the ability of getting those leaders in the minds and the experience of the employees, there's no way we would have been able to get to a solution. [00:33:00] The rules are. You don't park in visitor parking, period. And if you do, your car gets towed and it would have left the employees to try to figure out their own ride sharing situation, which when you're returning, citizen is not as easy as many of us might think.

And I use that story because these are all nice, kind, inclusive leaders who just because they didn't have the ability to put themselves in another person's shoes were making really bad decisions.

Jonathan Jones: So I'm going to use that as a segue and in the book, there's a chapter on page 117 where you talk about the importance of reading fiction and really what you did with those plant managers, you had to create, through fiction, a shared experience for them to be empathetic.

So, talk about... Reading [00:34:00] fiction and its importance in developing empathy.

Dr. Nicole Price: Yeah, you know, if I would have... I've brought that woman in as an example and just had her tell her story for people who are naturally empathetic that might move their heartstrings, but for people who are rule followers, the people who think that the world would just be better if people knew the rules and follow the rules.

And I'm not saying there's anything wrong with those people. We need them. That's why our planes leave on time, right? Like, we, you need rule followers. Stop signs are a good thing. Yes, stop signs are a good thing. And there should be consequences sometimes when people don't follow the rules. But for that segment of the population who are the rule followers, and some estimates say about 25%. Your personal story does not move them.

Fiction. Allows you to actually be in the shoes of another person, which then brings the human component, which when I think, what would I want to happen if it were me? We tend to want people [00:35:00] to give us a little grace when it's us. So I did two things in that, that workshop that day. There were people in the room they had never known had had an experience.

And so now the, the story they had told themselves about what it looks like to be impoverished is not the line worker who's been to prison who, you know, might be a different race or than me or different socioeconomic class. It is, this is my colleague who I've been working alongside, assuming that we have all the same shared experiences.

So now I've just humanized a community of people that hadn't been humanized before. That was one, but the other thing was... Because when you spark the imagination, learning is freer. You don't have the, the boundaries of the rules because [00:36:00] the rules can sometimes get in the way of being empathetic. In fact, I often say people over policy because if you want to see something that's not empathetic, have it the other way around.

Aaron Heim: In the book, you do a great job of describing empathetic listening versus active listening. Can you just explain the differences and why you included that as well?

Dr. Nicole Price: Active listening is repeating back to someone what you heard them say. And typically, you're being pretty accurate in that recounting. Empathetic listening... is not for you to repeat back anything, actually. You are listening with the sole purpose of benefiting the speaker.

You are allowing the speaker to get out all of the stuff that they are experiencing, so that then they can hear you. You know, my mother used to say about people who would either be on drugs [00:37:00] or suffer from alcoholism. You know how people are like, I'm not giving that person any money so they can go buy some liquor.

My mom used to feel like, well, if I take care of the liquor, then maybe they'll listen to everything else I gotta say first. Like that, that, that very human need they have needs to be met. And then possibly I can reach them in another way. And I always thought that was, It was interesting. It was kind of like teaching a person to fish and giving them fish at the same time, because if you're, if you're hungry, it's probably hard to learn how to fish.

Jonathan Jones: So, talking about that, you also talk in the book that empathy just isn't this touchy feely... No. Where it gets rid of accountability or meeting deadlines. How do you see... Because you're talking about your mom, you know, you teach them to fish and give them fish. You're still holding someone accountable to learn how to fish and feed themselves.

So talk about that.

Dr. Nicole Price: Well, what I didn't say is that my mom was killed by a drunken driver and that murder trial went [00:38:00] on for almost five years. And the person who hit her car, just to paint the picture, he had been in and out of prison or rehab like eight times. He had stolen a car that day. He ran a red light.

And when he hit my mom and saw her, like, dying, he ran. So when you get all of that, right, people are like, Oh my God, this guy is the worst person ever.

But it's my mom. So I, I, I can't do that. I have to... You can't ask what's wrong with the person because that's my natural inclination. You have to say, what happened to a person that would get them to this point? And upon with a little more investigation, you found out that this guy, his name was Jonathan also was in foster care. Had horrible experiences in foster care. His [00:39:00] grandmother was the only person who ever really loved him in any substantial way. And sometimes because she didn't have enough money, she couldn't have him.

And the day he stole the car and was drinking to satiate his grief, his grandmother had just died. And all of those things. are important to consider, and he had a six month old child. He, in essence, was a child. He's 21 years old.

My son's currently 24. Like that, to me, that's a child. And there have been times when my son has made decisions that have not been the best, even as have I.

But when someone has harmed us, or when someone's decisions have hurt us, we don't think about the times in which we've done things that could have resulted in really horrible situations. Now, here's the thing though, a person's life was lost, so that doesn't mean that you don't have [00:40:00] to go to court and be charged with manslaughter and get whatever the judge decides is necessary, but in my victim impact statement, I didn't talk about he had been arrested eight times, he, you know, I talked about my mother because that's the victim impact statement. This is who my mom is and this is who has been taken away from us. And I just felt compelled to also say my mother would have considered the whole of who Jonathan Ross was, not just who he was on his worst day.

Jonathan Jones: Yeah. When I read that in the book, I thought that was really impactful.

Dr. Nicole Price: Yeah. Empathy is not the enemy of accountability. It just means, does he need to spend 28 years in prison, which is the maximum possible? I don't know about that. So, you know, when he's up for parole, I don't intend to go to argue for him to stay [00:41:00] in, in jail. I honestly believe that he had learned his lesson by the time we went to court.

It, it's, at least it seemed obvious to me that he had. But he got 15 years in prison. When he gets out, his son will be 17 years old, and I hope that he'll be able to live a beautiful, thriving, thriving life.

If you put yourself in the shoes of another person and you still go, Oh, no, I would never, you know, that's not. That, that's not quite going to get us to where, where we need to be.

Aaron Heim: Talk to us a little bit about grace.. It's a powerful word, it's, there's elements of it, obviously in empathy, you have to have grace to know what it means.

Dr. Nicole Price: I think what's most important is that I certainly understand the spirit of what you're trying to ask me when. Every year in August, I do this 14 days of empathy and I invite other people to join me. And it's just a series of little exercises to be intentional about practicing. The book, right? Yeah. And I lay out the 14 days, but One of the [00:42:00] days in the week about practice, the first week, the first seven days is just about reflecting on empathy.

You don't even really have to do anything. You just have to have thoughts in your head. But the second week is actually about doing something. And the session about grace just asks you to think about sometimes, one point in your life where someone has given you something you did not deserve and it was to your benefit because we start to think that everything we have, we got it through merit and that gets in the way of being empathetic.

There have been people we've wronged. There have been oversights we've made, biases we've held. In fact, the book is not a preachy book at all. It is me telling you some of the greatest times in my life where I've gotten it wrong.

It is like, look at me and don't do what I do, okay?

Because I learned a lot doing it this way. But we've all been granted a little [00:43:00] grace. Somewhere. By someone. And sometimes you can't get to empathy like you just can't understand how someone else would make a decision or make a statement or do a thing. And when you can't do that every once in a while, just offer a little grace, and I think that's important, especially for the people we hold dearest and closest to us.

Jonathan Jones: We're about at time. What final thoughts do you have just about empathy and why is it so important? Why is this your focus right now?

Dr. Nicole Price: I believe that some of the world's most nefarious humans understand empathy. Stick with me. They understand what another person thinks, feels, and believes and how to manipulate that to get people to do something that they would otherwise not do.[00:44:00]

Nice, kind, well meaning people. Instead of projecting what we think, feel, and believe onto other people, if we could lean into empathy. could really change how we engage with people around the world. And so I think, and I've called this book Spark the Heart because I believe that Kansas City, in the heart of Midwest NICE, can be the spark of empathy throughout the rest of the country.

Ultimately, sparking empathy revolution around the globe. I have no idea how to do that. But I'm here talking to you because hopefully someone will listen and say, I want to join that, that empathy revolution.

Jonathan Jones: That's great. Well, Dr. Price, thank you for joining us. Again, this is Jonathan Jones and Aaron Heim with DEMDACO and this is the Lift the Spirit podcast and we're joined today by Dr. Nicole Price and what a great conversation on empathy. Thank you so [00:45:00] much.

Aaron Heim: Thank you for being here.

Dr. Nicole Price: My pleasure.

Jonathan Jones: I really appreciate it. And we'll see you, hopefully not see you, hope you catch the next podcast