Empathy Definition: The feeling that you understand and share another person's experiences and emotions: the ability to share someone else's feelings.
Empathy is valuable in the workplace. Most of us work on teams. We must be able to foster productive relationships. Many of us interact daily with people from various backgrounds with different perspectives. Leadership requires appreciating those differences.
Empathetic people put themselves in someone else’s shoes and attempt to see things from their perspective. Empathy doesn’t mean agreeing with someone. Empathy is not sympathy. Empathy doesn’t mean telling them that they are right or even addressing their concerns. Demonstrating empathy shows that you care enough to give someone else’s issue the same level of respect and attention they do.
Here are some ways to exhibit empathy:
- Recognize another person’s perspective is real and important to them. It may not be real, or important, to you, but it is very real and important to them. Give it the same level of respect and attention they do.
- Be Present. Stop typing on your computer. Put away your phone. Don’t glance at your watch. Focus on the other person.
- Turn off your head trash and listen. Don’t focus on formulating a response. Listen for meaning. Clarify and confirm for understanding.
Leaders must work with, and through, others to accomplish organizational objectives and achieve success. The better we become at seeing things through other’s eyes, the better we will influence and inspire them. Empathy may not seem like a “business” concept, but it’s a behavior worthy of practice.