Gary Barlow, song-writer and member of Take That! was asked recently how he, generally considered all-round Mr Nice Guy, could be so cruel and cutting wth some of the contestants he was judging on the UK TV's "X Factor". The excuse he gave was that when he found himself up on stage behind the judges' table he experienced being in "a bubble" that made him suspend his normal considerations for people.
Also interviewed recently on BBC's Radio 4 was a former journalist for the British tabloid newspaper "The Daily Star". He was being asked about Lord Leveson's inquiry into alleged excessive and intrusive practices of tabloid journalism. He described the Star's newsroom as a sort of "bubble", where the personal pain inflicted on subjects written about and on their families was rarely, if ever, considered; merely whether a story would "stand up" (boost circulation).
This dissociation of what we say about people with the consequences on them isn't confined to reality TV judges or tabloid journalists, of course. We learn that bankers, politicians, wheel-clampers, burglers and bureaucrats also have their own bubbles that they live within.
The world right now seems replete with bubbles but rather short on empathy, the ability to put oneself in another's shoes.
This week, I've been leading our leading Change Management Practitioner course and some delegates have commented on the theme of empathy that has emerged from a number of authorities in this field: Daniel Goleman, Stephen Covey and Carl Rogers, to name but three. There is an overwhelming argument from such authorities that empathy is a key skill in influencing the people around us.
I think this world would be a better place if we were little more self-aware and burst a few of these bubbles. What do you think?