If you had the power to help someone in need, would you do so? What motivates you? What drives you to do a kind deed? Empathy!
Donald Trump has a catchphrase: “It’s not personal, it’s business”. And, on the surface, he certainly has the trappings of success… but is that the sort of success you want?
Empathy is the lifeblood of enduring relationships and one of the most important skills for parents to teach children. Yet it is seldom seen in adults. Almost daily I teach skills of showing empathy to my customers in either our management Workshops or in one/one leadership coaching sessions.
This article gives details why empathy is vital for leaders and others who wish to use emotional intelligence to create good relationships.
Modern day psychologists mention us that empathy is a human innate attribute and if you lack it, then there is something absolutely wrong .Empathy is a crucial part of emotions and is itself a special emotion regarding a feeling element of connection and a bodily reaction of .Many specialists have claimed that empathy is an practical way of communicating harmoniously with the others and succeeding in initiating .Social learning theorists, on other hand, contend that empathy is acquired by ways of conditioning. Teaching empathy is firstly about being prepared to recognize when either you or your child is having an emotion. However, another important component of the skill of empathy is teaching people how to settle down, especially if i am listening to a child. Empathy is the difference between easily downloading what a person tells and surely connecting with them.
Why does empathy matter?
I saw a quote the other day: “I am not good at empathy. Will you settle for sarcasm?” This humourous quote led me to recapture the slight unease or self-conscious discomfort that many people, especially business leaders, feel when a phrase such as “empathy” is introduced in a business background. Notions of “play nicely” or “touchy-feely”, spring to mind.
While empathy is a right brain task, it is far from being a touchy-feely topic. At its core, empathy is the oil that keeps relationships running smoothly. The fact that empathy is an essential component of efficient relationships has been proven: Dr. Antonio Damasio outlines in his book: “Descartes’ mistake: Emotion, circumstance, and the Human Brain.”, that medical patients who had damaged a component of the brain affiliated with empathy showed significant deficits in relationship capabilities, although their reasoning and learning aptitudes remained intact.
Indeed, empathy is valued currency. It facilitates us to develop bonds of trust, it gives us insights into what others might be feeling or thinking; it benefits us to comprehend how or why others are reacting to cases, it sharpens our “people acumen” and informs our choices.
A formal definition of Empathy is the aptitude to recognize and comprehend another’s circumstance, feelings and motives. It’s our aptitude to identify the concerns other people have. Empathy signifies: “putting yourself in the other person’s shoes” or “seeing things through someone else’s eyes”.
There are multiple studies that link empathy to business results. They include studies that correlate empathy with increased sales, with the performance of the managers of product development teams and with enhanced performance in an increasingly diverse workforce.
Increasingly, the topic of empathy is encroaching on the business world. We are now even seeing terms such as “empathy marketing” and “empathy selling”. Not long ago, I came across the phrase “user empathy”, referring to user interface.
Along those lines, in his book, A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age, Daniel Pink suggests that power will reside with those who have powerful right-brain (interpersonal) qualities. He cites 3 forces that are provoking this convert: Abundance, Asia and Automation.
“Abundance” has to do with our going up demand for products or services that are aesthetically pleasing;
“Asia” has to do with the growing trend of outsourcing;
“Automation” is self-explanatory.
So as to compete in the new economy market, Pink suggests 6 areas that are essential to our success. One of which is Empathy; the aptitude to imagine yourself in somebody else’s position, to think of what they are feeling, to comprehend what generates people tick, to develop relationships and to be caring of others: All of which is very hard to outsource or automate, and yet is increasingly crucial to business.
Empathy is also especially critical to leadership development in this age of young, autonomous, very marketable and mobile employees. In an extended Harvard Business Review article entitled “What generates a Leader?”, Dr. Daniel Goleman isolates three factors for why empathy is so crucial: the increasing use of teams, (which he has to do with as “cauldrons of bubbling emotions”), the quick pace of globalization (with cross cultural communication easily prominent to misunderstandings) and the growing requirement to retain talent. “Leaders with empathy,” states Goleman, “do more than sympathize with people around them: they use their know-how to enhance their companies in subtle, but crucial ways.” This does not mean that they agree with everyone’s view or try to please everybody. Rather, they “thoughtfully consider employees’ feelings – in conjunction with other circumstances – in the process of making intelligent choices.”
Empathy, then, is an aptitude that is well-worth cultivating. It’s a soft, from time to time abstract tool in a leader’s toolkit that can conduct to hard, tangible results. But where does empathy come from? Is it a process of thinking or of emotion? From my point of view, I guess that it is both: We require to use our reasoning aptitude to comprehend another person’s thoughts, feelings, reactions, concerns, motives; This signifies truly making an effort to stop and think for a moment about the other person’s point of view in order to take off to comprehend where they are coming from: And then we require the emotional aptitude to care for that person’s concern; Caring doesn’t mean that we would constantly agree with the person, that we would convert our position, but it does mean that we would be in tune with what that person is passing through, in order to we can respond in a way that acknowledges their thoughts, feelings or concerns.
Can empathy be learned?
So this leads me to something to ask that I am from time to time asked: “Can you teach somebody to be empathetic?” We all know a couple of people who are naturally and consistently empathetic – these are the people who can simply forge positive connections with others. They are people who use empathy to engender trust and create bonds; they are catalysts who are able to develop positive communities for the bigger good. But although empathy doesn’t come naturally to a couple of us, I firmly believe that we can create this aptitude.
Here are some practical recommendations you might consider to help you do this:
- Be fully present when you are with people. Do not check your email, look at your watch or take phone calls when an immediate report drops into your office to chat to you. Put yourself in their shoes. How would you feel if your boss did that to you?
- Listen – deliberately listen to people. Listen with your ears, eyes and heart. Watch out to others’ body language, to their tone of voice, to the untapped emotions behind what they are saying to you, and to the circumstance.
- Listen without interrupting – do not interrupt people. Do not dismiss their concerns offhand. Do not rush to give advice. Do not change the subject. Give people their moment. Use my simple technique “I colour I Listen” to quickly make this work.
- Tune in to non-verbal communication. This is the way that people often communicate what they think or feel, even when their verbal communication tells something quite different.
- Practice the “93% rule“. We know from a famous study by Professor Emeritus, Albert Mehrabian of UCLA, when communicating about feelings and attitudes, words – the things we mention – account for only 7% of the total message that people receive. The other 93% of the message that we communicate when we speak is contained in our tone of voice and body language. It’s crucial, then, to spend a couple of time to comprehend how we encounter when we communicate with others about our feelings and attitudes.
- Use people’s name. Also recollect the names of people’s spouse and children in order to you can point to them by name.
- Encourage people, especially the quiet ones, when they speak up in meetings. A basic thing like an attentive nod can jumpstart people’s confidence
- Smile at people.
- Give genuine appreciation and praise. Watch out to what people are doing and catch them doing the right things. When you give praise, invest a little effort to make your authentic words memorable: “You are an asset to this team for the reason that…”; “This was pure genius”; “I would have missed this if you hadn’t picked it up.”
- Take a personal interest in people. Show people that you care, and authentic curiosity about their lives. Ask them questions about their hobbies, their challenges, their families, their aspirations.
Empathy is an emotional and thinking muscle that becomes stronger the more we use it. Try a couple of these recommendations and watch the reactions of those you work with. I believe you will notice a couple of positive results.
Now that you have the power to help someone in need, do so!