In the summer of 1941, Sergeant James Ward was awarded a Victoria Coss for bravery for clambering onto the wing of his Wellington bomber and, while flying 13,000 feet above the North Sea, extinguishing a fire in the starboard engine. He was secured, at the time, just by a single rope tied around his waist.
When Winston Churchill summoned the shy New Zealander to Number 10 Downing street to congratulate him they got off to a shaky start. The fearless, daredevil airman was completely tongue-tied in the presence of the Prime Minister and couldn’t answer the simplest of questions put to him.
Churchill tried a different approach.
“You must feel very humble and awkward in my presence,” he began.
“Yes, sir,” replied Ward. “I do.”
“Then you can imagine,” Churchill said, “how humble and awkward I feel in yours.”
That is empathy at its very best.
(Story taken from the Scientific American Mind magazine)