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Why Demonstrate Empathy?

Sean Lynch, March 28, 2016

Why Demonstrate Empathy?

Is empathy a squishy concept that makes you uncomfortable? Is it incompatible with hard-nosed business decisions?

Empathy is a valuable skill in the workplace. Most of us work on teams. We must be able to create, manage, and 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 doesn’t mean telling them that they are right, or even addressing their concern. Demonstrating empathy shows that you care enough to give someone else’s issue the same level of respect and attention they do.

To demonstrate 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. Accord it the same level of respect and attention they do.
  • Give your full attention. Stop typing on your computer. Put away your phone. Don’t glance at your watch. Focus on the other person.
  • Turn off the running conversation in your head. Don’t focus on formulating a response. Listen for meaning. Clarify and confirm for understanding.
  • Resist jumping into problem-solving mode. They may not want their problem solved externally. Believe it or not, we may be able to meet another’s need just by listening.

We work with, and through, others to accomplish organizational objectives and achieve success. The better we become at seeing things through other’s eyes, the more we can influence and inspire them. Empathy may not seem like a “business” concept, but its absence does not go unnoticed.

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