Can you imagine how different our world would be, and our workplaces for that matter, if we all displayed more empathy?
Empathy can often be seen as a ‘fluffy’ term to those that do not fully appreciate and understand the power that it has.
Empathy can be described as ‘demonstrating the ability to mirror emotional responses, and sense what it is like to be another person, have an understanding of what it is like to be in their shoes’. Although empathy can be an innate trait that is enhanced through life experiences, it can also be learnt and most definitely taught.
A few weeks ago, I attended an Empathy in Australia event hosted by The School of Life, at The Melbourne Town Hall. This event made me think about what empathy means to me and how I view it in my own life – including at work. Whilst I always thought I was an empathetic person, I am now facing the question: how can people learn and show more empathy? And also the question: in my HR role, how can I teach people to be more empathetic at work?
From what I have learnt, the first step in becoming more empathetic is to put yourself in the eyes of others; understand their motivations and what drives them. Focus on appreciating those people that you may not usually understand, support others in their quest to grow their knowledge on empathy and relate to those around you when interacting with them, both in your personal and professional lives.
In learning empathy, there are two important factors to remember:
- Listening is the first step in developing more empathy
- Applying empathy in your day to day life is achieved by understanding and ‘walking in somebody else’s shoes’.
Take away the judgement and appreciate people for who they are.
In a work context, empathy is a major competitive advantage. YOU benefit, teams benefit, businesses benefit, your clients benefit and your customers benefit. Be approachable, listen to the true concern of your team members, your manager, your customer and respond accordingly. In turn, this will help you understand your clients and customers better, through demonstrating a high level of emotional intelligence.
We share our experience on this earth with other human beings. You do not necessarily need to step into their world and feel exactly what they are feeling, but you should listen to what they are saying, and understand how it makes them feel. You will then understand who they are from a different perspective. If there is a solution to a lack of empathy, the first step is to listen, really listen.
So, how can you display more empathy in your personal and professional life?
I suggest these five steps:
- Truly listen to others when you are interacting with them.
- Pay attention to what they are saying. Recognising that the feelings you have are present in the person you are speaking with or listening to.
- Read books, news stories, columns and articles. Expand how you see the world, jump into the imagination of somebody else. Take the time to challenge yourself by empathising with points of view you may initially disagree with.
- Change the streams of media that you usually follow or listen to. Take the time to understand other cultures and listen to people’s thought processes.
- Continue to be motivated and achieve the goals that you want. Be present with those you work with.
Think about how you can practice empathy day to day. This will enhance how you work with, appreciate and respect others.
Empathy allows for a fantastic culture to be present within your workplace and to ensures that you are allowing people to be creative, embrace their ideas and appreciate that every single person has different motivations.
Empathy is all about listening and understanding those around you, whilst expanding on your own thoughts and feelings. Take the courage to have empathy, it doesn’t cost you anything!