Got Empathy???

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February 20, 2015

Empathy is one of the most powerful skills we have in our toolbox for building connection with our staff, our colleagues, and our customers.  When we display empathy, we show others that we are listening to their situation, that we care about them and that we are attempting to understand how they might feel. When we do a good job of showing empathy, we create a sense of comfort, build rapport and drive relationship.  The common expression “walk a mile in my shoes” is what we tell people they should do to be empathetic.  We can never really understand “exactly” how another person feels.  The best we can do is imagine how we would feel if we were in their situation. So how do we show empathy?  Is it the words we say?  Is it the look in our eyes? The tone of our voice? Our body language?  Yes to all of these.  Every situation is a little different and how you show empathy will vary. 
Below are 7 tips for displaying empathy:

  1. Listen to understand: Listen with your eyes, ears and heart.  Be conscious of the other persons tone and demeanor. Listen for emotions and needs.
  2. Give person your full focused attention:  Avoid distractions. Do not multitask.  Put away your cell phone.  Listen.
  3. Avoid being judgmental: When we are being judgmental internally, the other person can sense it.  Try to approach conversations with a clear and open mind.
  4. Use open & positive body language:  This includes everything from your smile, to how you hold your hands, to the way you are sitting. 
  5. Rephrase and Reflect: Rephrasing or repeating back to the person what they just said can sometimes help clarify the feelings and allows you to check for understanding.  This tool confirms to the other person that you are listening to them. 
  6. Be Genuine: You cannot fake empathy.  People can sense when your words say one thing and your behavior says another.
  7. Empathy Statements:  Depending on the situation, you might want to use an empathy statement to show that you are attempting to understand how they might feel.  Remember, empathy is not always about recognizing negative emotions. You can use empathy with positive scenarios as well.  Below are 3 examples  of an empathetic response
  • Getting bumped off your flight and having to wait 4 hours for the next one sounds frustrating and exhausting. I can understand how that might feel. Let me see what I can do to …..
  • Your daughter won the track meet! That’s fantastic! I can only imagine how proud you are of her…
  • I am sorry to hear that your grandmother is ill.  I understand this is a tough time for you

Being empathetic is a skill that requires both practice and awareness.If you want to become more empathetic, I challenge you to begin by building your awareness.  Create an empathy log.  Over the next week, whenever an opportunity to be empathetic arises, write down answers to these 3 questions:

  1. What was the conversation about?
  2. What emotions did you hear?.
  3. If you displayed empathy, what did you specifically say or do to show empathy?

At the end of the week take a look at what you wrote.  Have you heightened your awareness? Do you feel more empathetic?  If you need more help developing this skill for yourself or your team, Goldin Leadership offers training programs as well as 1:1 & team coaching.  Please reach out to us at 949-387-3436 if we can be of assistance.