Explaining four “E” words associated with Collaboration

Photo described in the text demonstrating equality and equity

Photo from http://interactioninstitute.org/illustrating-equality-vs-equity/

It is said a picture is worth a thousand words. Look at the photo above. It speaks volumes. To develop leaders, promote collaboration, overcome conflict, address disputes, and promote healing for the betterment of your organization. Words matter. This article looks at four words that begin with the letter “E” that have to do with The Collaboration Effect. These are equality, equity, empathy, and educate. A closer look at each indicates why each is important for collaboration. Let us begin with equality.




Anyone that has children knows that no two children are alike. Each child has their own personality. Although it may be possible at times to treat each equally on the surface, more often than not treating children fairly means that you address the needs at the time for the circumstances. The U.S. under segregation tried separate, but equal as a national policy for much of the country. How well did that work? Need I say more.

Given different needs, equality may or may not be fare. Equality is simpler to administrator.

Sometimes equality is the right alternative. With eight people and a pie each person can have one piece of an equally sized piece. Everyone is happy.

However, look at the left picture above. When the three individuals were treated equally, they each received a box to stand on to see the game. The result is two being able to see the game looking over the fence and one looking through a crack in the fence. They were treated equally, but not fairly. The tall person can see over the fence without the box. The shortest person on the right has look through a crack to only see part of the playing field. Yes, they were treated equally, but the one that did not have a particularly good view of the game likely would like to be able to look over the fence too. By comparison let us look at an equity distribution. Take a look at the picture on the right.




On the picture on the right notice that the tall person on the left in the picture gave up his box. He could see the game fine. He did not need a box, though he had a box. The middle person kept his box, and he can see fine too. The person on the right picked up the tall person’s box so that he has two boxes to stand on. Now he can see over the fence too by standing on two boxes. With equity no one was harmed, and everyone can see the game.

By practicing thought leadership with communication and equality with an emphasis on equity for fairness, this can make a real difference in the lives of everyone involved.

In this case the person that gave up his box, did not mind and likely felt good about giving up his box to help out his shorter associate. He just had to understand, see the need, and realize this really did not require him to give up anything of consequence to help. Equity is all about fairness and concern for everyone. Now let us take a look at empathy.




The opposite of love is not hate. Rather, the opposite of love is apathy and not caring. Taking this up a level, sympathy means I share your pain. “Oh, that is too bad.” However, taking sympathy further, empathy not only feels the other’s pain but acts.

By listening with empathy or being with someone and practicing empathy you are there for them.

Think of a death in the family and being there with the surviving family members such as with the Jewish custom of “sitting shiva”. That is being there with the grieving family for seven days. Not everyone can afford to sit shiva. What else can you do. You can send a sympathy card, contributing to a cause that meant something to the person who passed away, bringing food to the grieving family, or some other appropriate act of kindness. These are all acts of empathy.

How about at work? Listening with empathy means to feel their pain and then working with them to address this concern. This can be done by asking open ended questions to help the other party sort out good options given the situation. If the other party asks for solutions from you, pause and consider more open-ended questions, before giving in with your opinion. Only when you have exhausted good open-ended questions and someone asks for your opinion, is it a good time to offer your own judgment. Listening with empathy is especially important. Now let us look at educating.




All too often you have so much knowledge that you want to share. In our society you have been taught how to interact with others and demonstrate how interesting you are. For collaboration being interesting can come later. From the last section on empathy and listening, you now know that it is better to focused on being interested in them than on being interesting. This is the practice of a good listener. Once you have applied The Collaboration Effect on connecting relationships, and listening actively, you are ready to start

educating judiciously. This means to educate the other party the way they want to be educated.

How do you know how they want to be educated? You can take a page from The Asking Formula by John Baker. Know what you want. Ask for it. Have three reasons why it is beneficial for them and then just listen. Answer their questions. Address their concerns. You are educating them the way they prefer to be educated. So, there you have it.




Four key “E” words associated with collaboration are equality, equity, empathy, and educate. Equality can work when appropriate, with everyone receiving equal treatment. However, many times there are exceptions to the rule and in the spirit of fairness equity may be more appropriate. Empathy is key to understanding. When you feel someone else’s pain and you take actions to help them with their pain, you are practicing empathy. Finally, educating judiciously the way the other party wants to be educated rather than you sharing your knowledge and how smart you are goes a long way to promote collaboration.

Hopefully, you found these four “E” words helpful and when overcoming a conflict or dispute, or when wanting to promote collaboration. It is thought going forward that you will keep equality, equity, empathy, and educate in mind. If you do, you may very well find yourself more productive, more profitable, and have more pleasure in your future.

About the author

Mike Gregory is a professional speaker, an author, and a mediator. You may contact Mike directly at mg@mikegreg.com and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 12 books (and co-authored two others) including his latest book, The Collaboration Effect: Overcoming Your Conflicts, and The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]