EmpathyThe ability to connect with others is vital to not only your personal relationships, but also your success as a leader and a co-worker. When you use empathy, you open the door to important, constructive conversations and improved workplace understanding.  Empathy is a critical skill for all levels of workplace operation.

Empathy does not mean constantly agreeing with someone who says something you do not actually agree with.  This would be disingenuous.

Instead, it means striving to understand another person’s point of view and circumstances by listening rather than arguing your own agenda. It does not mean you agree. It means you understand where they are coming from. From this foundation, you can build solutions to problems that serve everyone.

The bottom line is that people value empathy over almost everything else a job can provide.

Conflict arises when people feel misunderstood or ignored. It ceases when empathy is utilized and feelings are acknowledged whether you agree or not. When asked, one third of workers would leave their companies for an organization  that provides a more compassionate work environment. That’s a huge incentive for your leaders and colleagues to build their empathy skills.

However, improving empathy skills can be both emotionally and mentally draining.  Sometimes it’s the people who are most empathetic who are taken advantage of by other employees.

So how can you balance being empathetic while still setting respectable limits on your valuable time and energy? How can you be both selfless and empathetic  without losing yourself to other’s expectations?

Here’s how you can make empathy work for you.

Empathy Skill #1: Check your mindset and have a strong intention. 

What’s your mindset going into conversations with your coworkers? Is it an attitude of “what you’re saying is worth thinking about and understanding” or more of a “better suck it up buttercup” attitude?

There’s a large difference between the two and most of the time you will fall somewhere in the middle. Sometimes, if you genuinely like the person or have developed a friendship with them, then you’re more likely to empathize easily.

However, if you’re dealing with someone who challenges your respect — seems like a whiner or doesn’t get anything done — you might find it harder to deploy empathy. Here is where skill development is important.

This is also where having a strong intention comes into play. No matter the situation, whether it is at the family dinner table, staff meeting or chatting with a coworker, approach these conversations with strong intention.

Empathy requires the intention to be patient, to respectfully listen, and actually consider another person’s  viewpoint. Heading to work? Gently remind yourself in the car the ideal way you think a person could show you empathy, and then carry that with you throughout the day. Impatient? Remember the last time you spoke, and were not heard or were brushed off.

And this brings us to the next point, which is… 

Empathy Skill #2: How well do you really listen?

Think back to a time when you were trying to speak to someone, and they listened. However, they didn’t bother to understand what you were saying and why it mattered to you.

Being empathetic involves active listening and seeking to understand the other’s view before being understood yourself. It also means confirming what that person might be feeling. It means putting another person before you, and truly listening to what someone has to say with an open mind.

Empathy does not imply judgment or trying to give them a solution. It opens the door to resolving procedural, goal and relationship conflict. It is also effective for correcting misunderstandings and building common ground around performance expectations, professional work relationships and constructive behavior. 

Empathy Skill #3: Step into your coworker’s shoes.

Learn how co-workers spend their day and what their job includes. When was the last time you had a rough day at work? Have you felt as though nobody was listening to you and your opinion didn’t matter? Your coworker probably had a lot on their plate.

Take a minute the next time you are about to talk with this person or any person you feel stressed around.  Imagine what it would be like to walk in their shoes for a day.

If someone is frustrated, you can diffuse the situation by listening to them. Imagine what they might be feeling and learn all the details on why they might be feeling that way.

Then, confirm what they might have felt or are feeling. If you were in the same situation, would you feel frustrated too?  If so, communicate that what they are saying makes sense.  Until this step is reached,  problem solving is superficial.

Empathy skill wrap-up

Becoming skilled with empathy is an ongoing process. You cannot just flip the empathy switch on and off whenever you think the time is right.

Instead, work on different characteristics that make up empathy. Build your patience. Work on how you actively listen to others. Look at how you interact with your team.

The more time you spend actively developing this skill, the better you are at responding to, connecting with and understanding your coworkers.

While developing your empathy skills may not rank high on your priority list, an empathetic and kind work environment has a measurable influence on employee moral, engagement, and productivity. People who feel understood and heard are happier and more willing to go the extra mile.

So bump empathy up on the priority list and start working on it today. Start a conversation with your coworkers about how your team can actively create a more positive, connected work environment.  If you are a supervisor or manager, your employees will thank you by giving more back to the company!

Want to master the art of empathy?

Take a look at these resources listed below.

Copyright TIGERS Success Series, Inc. by Dianne Crampton

About TIGERS Success Series, Inc.

TIGERS® Success Series provides a comprehensive, multi-pronged and robust system for improving both your work environment and profitability.

We specialize in building workforce cooperation and high performance team outcomes. Scaled to grow as your organization and leadership performance grows, our proprietary Team Behavior Profile and  Management training workshops are based on the six principles we have found to be the right mix to make this happen.

The TIGERS 6 Principles are Trust, Interdependence, Genuineness, Empathy, Risk and Success. Born from our many years of business, psychology, and educational group dynamic research, and subsequent four years of independent evaluation, we instill and sustain behaviors that improve work group performance and talent retention for measurable ROI.

For more information or to request a presentation to your group or association,  call 1+541-385-7465 or visit http://www.corevalues.com