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The Swimming Competition That Taught Me Empathy At the age of 10, I learned a lesson in empathy and team spirit—not in a classroom, but at a swimming competition, with the echo of splashes as my soundtrack.

I was fiercely competitive, with my eyes set on victory. My teammate, who swam after me, was doing his absolute best, yet his performance didn’t meet the high bar of our shared aspirations. In the heat of the moment, as he finished his lap, my competitive spirit overshadowed my empathy. I hit the water in frustration and voiced my annoyance for all to hear.

The audience’s reaction was immediate and clear—disapproval not for the performance, but for my reaction. The air, once thick with anticipation, now hung heavy with disappointment. I felt it deeply. I had not only let down my team by failing to offer support, but I had also forgotten the cardinal rule of sportsmanship: we win as a team, and we lose as a team.
This moment was pivotal. It taught me three fundamental truths about giving feedback that I carry to this day:

Take Care Personally: Empathy is the cornerstone of any team. Understand your teammates, their struggles, and their efforts. When you provide feedback, do it from a place of care, not criticism.

Focus on What Truly Matters: Winning is important, but how you play the game, how you support your team, defines the true victory. Never lose sight of the human element in your pursuit of excellence.

Critique in Private, Uplift in Public: Public criticism can demoralize and create pressure. Instead, if you must critique, do it privately. In public, send empowering vibes that uplift and motivate.

As a child, I made a mistake, but it was a mistake that shaped me. Now, when I provide feedback, I ensure it’s with a spirit of support, focusing on building up rather than tearing down.

How about you? Have you ever had a moment where you learned the importance of empathy in feedback? Share your story below.

Teamwork Empathy Leadership Feedback


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