Empathy is an important part of human interaction. It is the ability to relate to others experiences, thoughts and emotions on a personal level. It goes further than simply sympathy and allows the person to create a deeper connection with other individuals. Leaders of today can show a new level of caring for their teams, employees and others by simply working to improve their abilities to empathize. Having empathy and displaying empathetic behaviours are not the same thing, however. Displaying empathetic emotion means understanding the feelings of others, sharing in their emotions and even experiencing the feelings of others. The direct correspondence between empathetic leaders and their leadership performance has been shown in studies. This is especially true in management positions, as employees are more likely to positively respond to management they see as empathetic to their issues. These employees show a greater positivity in their jobs and a higher satisfaction in their positions, which leads to an improvement in work performance.
Empathy can be an innate trait for some or learned by others. Most leaders and managers fall into the category of sometimes empathetic. Improvement in this skill requires time and dedication, but the payoff can be worthwhile. Here are some ways to improve empathetic responses:
- Read more literature – specifically literary fiction, which has characters that people can relate to. The ability to build a connection with these characters allows the reader to feel for them and empathize with their situations, even if they are not real.
- Practice active listening – showing an interest in what others are saying and taking the time to properly process their words will help eliminate misunderstandings and build stronger bonds.
- View the situation from the other person’s viewpoint – how would they feel about this as opposed to selfish responses.
- Validate others thoughts and feelings honestly – try using positive, supportive responses truthfully. Validating others shows a level of empathy that people will connect with.
- Allow pain and injustice to make an impact – don’t turn away from the suffering of others, but at least occasionally embrace it. This will likely make a positive impact in future interactions since it can be referenced as a point of personal understanding.
- Encounter the world outside the comfort zone – talk to strangers, ask questions, learn, understand what makes them unique. Everyone has a story and truly empathetic people are curious about each story.
- Be vulnerable when necessary – in addition to listening, providing insight from deep inside can help others open up. This creates a unique bond with those individuals and strengthens empathetic responses for both parties.
No matter the stage or job title, everyone can benefit from becoming more empathetic. Human interactions would increase in quality and quantity if people worked on being more empathetic and less self-involved. It is a necessary trait to a happier and more meaningful future.
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