Communicating with empathy

Our CEO, Aedhmar Hynes, reflects on the sad death of chef and storyteller Anthony Bourdain, and the lessons of empathy and connection learned from his life.

Our CEO, Aedhmar Hynes, reflects on the sad death of chef and storyteller Anthony Bourdain, and the lessons of empathy and connection learned from his life.

Like many of you, I was deeply saddened by the recent loss of writer, storyteller and chef Anthony Bourdain.

His passing at 61 made me reflect on something that has been central to my life and career – the incredible benefits we gain from traveling to remote parts of the world. For me, I would sum it up as follows:

You have to experience to understand; and to understand is to build empathy.

Telling stories

Bourdain’s second career as a storyteller brought him to parts of the world rarely seen by tourists. He helped to show that which is unique, but also that which is very much the same no matter where you travel. He had an exceptional talent for something which is much needed in communications today: empathy.

His magic was his ability to not only show empathy but to reflect it to his audience. His viewers and readers, myself included, would find they shared his empathy for the people and cultures he visited. It’s that empathy that helps to make the world a smaller, more connected place.

I’ve also had the good fortune to visit many corners of the world. A passion for travel and connecting our world runs deep in my family and Text100.

Making connections, building empathy

Of course, seeing our world is about much more than stamps on passports. You can head from the airport to the big chain hotel, to an office, then back to the airport and you’d see nothing you wouldn’t at home.

The world only starts to feel smaller when you take the time to not just go to a place, but to experience it. To stay in local homes, to eat in family-run restaurants, and shop in local markets. That’s when you begin to appreciate how similar we all are, in every country.

You see commonalities in our cultures, challenges we all face, and our shared passion to create a better life for our children.

In so doing, you build empathy for the people you’ve spent time with – something that sticks with you long after you’ve left.

I remember traveling from Beijing to Shanghai with a junior member of my team. He told me of the challenges he faces due to the Chinese single-child policy that left him supporting not just his parents but two sets of grandparents. Without that conversation, I would never have understood the differences in what might motivate young employees in that culture.

Exploration

Instilling a desire to explore has been important in raising my own children. Some of my proudest moments have come when they have taken the opportunity to see the world on their own.

My daughter Hannah took an internship in Bangladesh, opening her eyes to a part of the world many will never see.

My son Paul spent last summer travelling across India, often on foot, exploring remote villages and immersing himself in Indian culture.

As a result of my work for Technoserve, I’ve been able to bring my younger children to visit small farmers in remote parts of Nicaragua.

As a mother, having your children so far from home, and at times out of touch, brings concerns.

The greater fear, however, was always that children raised in a safe, secure bubble won’t want to leave it. My joy in having them return home is matched by my pride watching them take the initiative to leave.

Opportunities

I often find that same pride in the way Texties use our two-month sabbatical program to explore the world. For many, this provides the time to step away from our business and travel across Asia, Africa or South America.

There are also opportunities to explore our world right here in the United States.

My colleague James Holland, from London but based in our New York office, used his recent sabbatical to visit the parts of America he’d otherwise not likely see. From Native American reservations in the West to small towns in the South, he was able to experience the cultures which make up this country.

The empathy that comes from exploring the world and its people is sorely needed in communications today.

At Text100, we’ve always thought of global communications as a dialogue among people. Dialogue breeds understanding. Understanding creates empathy, and ultimately helps to connect people.

In today’s polarized world, we need this more than ever.

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