Everyone that hasn’t suffered a brain injury or mental illness is capable of empathy. Some of us are in touch with this ability, while others could use a little practice.
What is empathy?
Empathy is a concern for the welfare of others. It’s the ability to detect or predict the emotions and thoughts of others.
It’s easy to see why this would be a handy skill to master. Empathy has an impact on your relationships. This is true for both your personal and professional relationships. Empathy can make your life easier and more fulfilling at home and at work!
Try these tips to increase your empathy for those around you:
- Avoid making assumptions. Your view of the world is limited. Your experiences are just your own. Others have lived a different reality. If you’re from a well-off and intact family from the United States, you don’t have a clue what it’s like to deal with the weight of growing up in an orphanage in Ukraine. If you’ve never lost a job, avoid assuming that you know exactly what that experience feels like. Making assumptions only gets in the way of developing empathy. When you catch yourself making assumptions, question them. Prove your assumptions to be true or false before making any decisions.
- Ask questions. One way to understand others is to ask questions. Develop a genuine interest in them. Enhancing your communication skills assists your ability to connect with, and to understand, other people. Ask open-ended questions.
- Listen. Listening intently is related to asking questions and avoiding assumptions. Seek to understand the emotions that the other person is feeling. Asking questions and then listening to the answers is a pivotal part of creating empathy within yourself.
- Try to understand a group of people outside of your experience. Suppose you’re a young, Christian male. You might decide to learn about Hasidic Jews. Or if you’ve never been poor, you might learn about the homeless. Read books and talk to people. Strive to understand what it would be like to be born a part of a particular group.
- Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. One way to relate better to others is to imagine yourself in the same situation. This can be painful. It’s not enjoyable to imagine that your spouse has died or that you’re entirely out of money. Ask yourself, “What would I be thinking and feeling if I were in this situation?” Just asking yourself this question is the most significant step you can take toward being empathetic.
- Be present. Give your undivided attention to others. You can’t be empathetic if you’re thinking about something else while someone is speaking to you. You’re not as good at hiding your disinterest as you think! You miss most of the information, verbal and non-verbal, communicated to you if you’re not paying attention.
- Practice having more meaningful conversations. Talking about sports is fine, but it’s not a deep and personal topic. One way to get the ball rolling is to talk about something important to you. The more you share, the more you’re going to receive in return. Be open, and others will be more open with you.
Empathy is an important skill. It can greatly increase your ability to communicate and connect with others. Being able to understand their feelings and thoughts will boost your rapport with them. Enhance your personal and work relationships with empathy, and you’ll benefit in many ways.
If you found this article helpful, please subscribe to my blog www.prestonpoore.com/blog, where I explore leadership, communication and human relations skills that will help you become the best version of yourself. Thanks for reading. Cheers!
Preston> Read More
My dad is a rocket scientist—seriously.
In 1996, he started a technology business because he and a small team of people had developed a way to track and shoot down missiles. As the company grew, my dad hired someone to handle the business side, allowing my dad to focus on the many technological aspects of what his team was accomplishing. My father empowered this new partner to build the business as he saw fit.
Their partnership flourished. Revenue skyrocketed and their number of employees boomed. My father’s expectations were exceeded. He was thrilled with his hire—until he wasn’t.
Growth tends to come with growing pains. My dad and his business partner began to have differing perspectives on the company’s direction. Constantly in conflict, they fought for managerial control. So great were their arguments that they even considered dissolving the well- performing business.
Since I was a minority owner, I had a vested interest in keeping the company afloat. And since my father and his business partner believed I could be an impartial judge between them, they asked me to step in and help resolve their issues. Their request made sense: I’d heard both of their arguments for months on end. Reluctantly, I accepted their invitation to help, but I knew that reconciling these two strong-willed men would be challenging. They were similar in many ways—and similarly stubborn.
I can still remember our first official meeting where they aired their grievances against each other to me. As the founder and most-senior member in the room, I ceded the floor to my dad first. He laid out everything I’d already heard: where he thought the company needed to go, what they needed to be focusing on, and how wrong his business partner’s ideas were.
After my father finished, I didn’t say anything. I let a pregnant pause hang in the air, then I turned to his business partner and asked, “Well, brother, what do you think about what Dad just said?”
That’s when my dad’s business partner—his son, my younger brother—let me know just how wrong our dad was.
Why Motive Matters
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that working with family can present unique challenges. (Maybe that’s why they brought me in.)
Sure, I wanted to keep the company together, but that wasn’t remotely close to my primary motivation for helping. One of my core values is family. I love my family, and whenever conflict arises, I desire restoration, healing, and peace. I helped my father and brother because I wanted to keep our family together.
Still, the businessman in me also wanted to figure out how to allow the business to grow and simultaneously protect Dad’s interests. So, I prayed. I asked God to heal their relationship and that I might honor the Lord in my engagement. I also played mediator by talking to them individually or together on conference calls. I listened to both sides intently, worked hard not to take sides, and focused on solutions.
Then, things got really difficult. My dad and brother couldn’t agree on anything. My dad began to feel like he was being forced out of the company. He offered to retire but wanted a huge “parachute,” which would put the company at financial risk. Dad also demanded rights to some of the intellectual property. My brother wouldn’t budge and didn’t want to provide Dad anything. Both demanded board meetings to discuss the issues.
When we met, our interactions were contentious. Shocking the organization, my dad sent a letter of resignation to the company. Then, my brother offered to leave. I knew that the company couldn’t survive without either one, dad being the technical genius and my brother being the business brains.
I was stuck in the middle, and the issue began distracting my attention away from my full-time job. I was absolutely heartbroken. I wrote in my journal, “I have no solutions. I can only seek God’s wisdom.” Then, I wrote a future headline capturing what I hoped would happen: “Our company posts record earnings, continues to lead innovative solutions and has the most talented team in the industry. The Poore family, while it went through a rough patch, is whole.” I continued, “I beg God that the opposite headline does not come true. Failure, collapse and demise. God, please moderate hearts, soften them toward one another and help my family come to an amicable resolution. Reconcile my family and give us peace.”
After much prayer, I felt the Lord leading me to disengage from the conflict as mediator and encourage my dad and brother to resolve things. I told them they needed to work out their issues and I needed to focus on my primary job.
Then something amazing happened: an olive branch appeared. Dad sent my brother an email expressing the desire to keep the company whole and ensure it prospered and maintained its strong talent. They’d worked too hard over the years to build the company and didn’t want to see it fall apart. After reading the conciliatory email, my brother went to my dad’s office. They began to talk. Dad also called me and said sorry for putting me in the middle of the conflict. He realized it wasn’t fair asking me to take sides and the potential long-term damage it would do to the family if I did.
To make a long and arduous story short, Dad and my brother reconciled. Their relationship was rocky for a while after the ceasefire, but now they are supportive business partners. More importantly, their personal relationship healed as well. Because of the reconciliation, the company is now thriving.
I recorded in my journal, “God answered my prayer. I didn’t come up with the solution through some type of masterful negotiation. God intervened. Thank you, Lord.” With God’s help, I put our family first. We got the business thrown in. If I’d been selfish or partial or had put the business first, we could have lost both.
During the entire process, I learned how important motive is to leading others. Motives matter. Motives are why we do what we do. When I helped my father and brother, my motivation was pure: I desired to keep my family together. That untethered motivation helped me lean into the conflict with integrity and selfless ambition, which ultimately aided the company’s success. That motivation also helped me navigate conflicts and, with God’s help, restore the relationship between my dad and my brother.
In fact, my motivation wasn’t so much family as something much deeper, something essential to the notion of family.
I was motivated by love.
Remember, love is defined as self-giving and self- sacrifice as described in 1 Corinthians 13:3–8:
“Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, doesn’t have a swelled head, doesn’t force itself on others, isn’t always ‘me first,’ doesn’t fly off the handle, doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, doesn’t revel when others grovel, takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, puts up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end. Love never dies” (1 Corinthians 13:3–8 MSG).
When leading others, my charge to you is to:
#1 – Know your motive – Understand the why behind what you do
#2 – Examine your motive – Determine if your motive is anything different than selfless and a desire to add value to others. Is your motive genuine and authentic? If not, you may want to check it.
#3 – Act on your motive – Serve others and look out for their interests. Help people achieve their goals and reach their potential
#4 – Reflect on your motive – After acting, determine the results and recalibrate your motive if necessary.
If you trust God, make love your motivation and follow the steps of knowing, examining, acting and reflecting on your motive, you’ll become a well-motivated leader.> Read More
I’m a disciple of Christ and an executive at a Fortune 500 Company. In my blog, The Discipled Leader, I draw on my diverse business experience to help Christians connect their secular and spiritual lives at work.
As a certified coach, speaker, and trainer with the John Maxwell Team, I help others grow their relationship with Christ, develop their leadership skills, and understand how they can make a positive difference in today’s chaotic world.
Let me help you reach your potential.
I draw on my diverse business experience to help Christians connect their secular and spiritual lives at work. I invite you to subscribe to my blog and learn how to develop Christlike character, influence your culture and change your world.