People Skills

 

Leadership

What's Empathy Got To Do With It?

Your Ability To Identify and Understand Another’s Situation, Feelings and Motives

 

Excerpts from the article What Empathy Got To Do With It?

By: Bruna Martinuzzi

Bruna Martinuzzi is the Founder and  President of Clarion Enterprises Ltd.
Bruna is an expert on leadership, emotional intelligence, Byers-Briggs and presentation skills training. Based in British Columbia, she teaches, consults and coaches and she can be contacted at bmartinuzzi@increaseyoureq.com

 

Empathy is valued currency. It allows us to create bonds of trust, it gives us insights into what others may be feeling or thinking; it helps us understand how or why others are reacting to situations, it sharpens our “people acumen” and informs our decisions. Empathy is also particularly critical to leadership development in this age of young, independent, highly marketable and mobile workers.

Leadership Attributes

A formal definition of Empathy is the ability to identify and understand another’s situation, feelings and motives. It’s our capacity to recognize the concerns other people have. Empathy means: “putting yourself in the other person’s shoes” or “seeing things through someone else’s eyes”.

We all know some people who are naturally and consistently empathetic – these are the people who can easily forge positive connections with others. They are people who use empathy to engender trust and build bonds; they are catalysts who are able to create positive communities for the greater good. But even if empathy does not come naturally to some of us, I firmly believe that we can develop this capacity.

Your People Skills 360

Here are a few practical tips you might consider to help you do this:

  1. Listen – truly listen to people. Listen with your ears, eyes and heart. Pay attention to others' body language, to their tone of voice, to the hidden emotions behind what they are saying to you, and to the context.

  2. Don't interrupt people. Don't dismiss their concerns offhand. Don't rush to give advice. Don't change the subject. Allow people their moment.

  3. Tune in to non-verbal communication. This is the way that people often communicate what they think or feel, even when their verbal communication says something quite different.

  4. Practice the 93% rule. We know from a famous study by Professor Emeriti, Albert Mehrabian of UCLA, that words – the things we say – 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 important, then, to spend some time to understand how we come across when we communicate with others. A simple thing like frowning or a raised eyebrow when someone is explaining their point of view can disconnect us from the speaker and make us appear as though we lack understanding.

  1. Use people's name. Also remember the names of people's spouse and children so that you can refer to them by name.

  2. Be fully present when you are with people. Don't check your email, look at your watch or take phone calls when a direct report drops into your office to talk to you. Put yourself in their shoes. How would you feel if your boss did that to you.

  3. Smile at people.

  4. Encourage people, particularly the quiet ones, when they speak up in meetings. A simple thing like an attentive nod can boost people's confidence.

  5. Give genuine recognition and praise. Pay attention to what people are doing and catch them doing the right things. When you give praise, spend a little effort to make your genuine words memorable: "You are an asset to this team because…."; "This was pure genius"; "I would have missed this if you hadn't picked it up."

  6. Take a personal interest in people. Show people that you care, and genuine curiosity about their lives. Ask them questions about their hobbies, their challenges, their families, their aspirations.

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