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
Our manager, Kevin suddenly charged into the room and sat down at the conference table.
“Okay, let’s see what you’ve got!” he exclaimed.
“Hi, Kevin. How are you today?” I said with a smile trying to lighten his mood and begin our meeting on a positive note.
Kevin replied, “I don’t have time today for small talk. Let’s go through your presentation and determine next steps.”
Over the next 15 minutes, Peter, my teammate, and I presented three different promotional displays to Kevin. We discussed the construction, benefits and potential cost of each display. Kevin seemed to like the options and asked how we could gain national customer team feedback.
The conversation came up once before, and I recommended that we use an internet survey. Kevin turned it down the first time. During this discussion, I thought I’d revisit the survey option. After I mentioned it, Kevin shook his head and said, “Nope, already rejected.”
I gently pushed back and asked him to reconsider. I began my response with, “I don’t mean to challenge you but….”
Not good. As soon as the words left my mouth, Kevin’s face turned red, he slammed his computer shut and shouted: “But you are challenging me, and I don’t appreciate it!” Throwing a tantrum, he got up and began to walk out of the room. Wanting to solve the issue, I followed him out the door. I asked Kevin to wait a moment and told him that I was just trying to make a suggestion. I told him I didn’t appreciate being treated that way, especially in front of a team member.
Kevin said, “Are you going to confront me in the hallway right now?”
“No,” I said staring at the floor. He told me we’d talk later and walked away. I went home deflated.
The next morning, Kevin called me into his office. When I arrived, he asked me to sit down. Then he said, “I am going to tell you some things, and you cannot respond.”
I looked at him inquisitively and thought, “I’m in for it; this can’t be good.” He was about to give me feedback. He told me that he wanted me to think about it and then we’d talk again. So, I sat in silence ready to listen.
“Preston, I was relatively easy on you yesterday. Other executives would have torn you to shreds.”
“Really?” I thought to myself.
“You’re not helping me, you’re not being a team player and you don’t listen well. You’ve got to change or you’ll be out of a job.” I held my tongue honoring his request and thanked him for the feedback.
I walked away from the conversation madder than a hornet. I was highly offended. I’d worked very hard, accomplished so much but Kevin always marginalized me. Kevin retaliated by implying my job was in jeopardy. A molehill was made into a mountain, and I resented Kevin for it. As a matter of fact, I resented Kevin and his management style for the two years I worked on his team. My constant feelings of bitterness were taking their toll. What was I going to do?
All leaders experience resentment from time to time. What is resentment? It’s an emotion that wells up inside when you feel like you’ve been mistreated or offended. Hard feelings, frustration or anger, can come from any number of sources including not gaining someone’s respect, not receiving appreciation for a job well done, not being assigned to a special project, being passed over for a promotion, an unspoken apology or rejection. Resentment is the most toxic of all emotions because it can lead to anger, hate, discord, divorce, aggressive driving, alcoholism, depression, anxiety, bankruptcy, and even violence.
If you hold a grudge against someone, the bitterness will fester inside and eventually destroy you. It begins as an emotional trigger and if harbored will become a mood impacting behavior. Resentment is a heavy burden you carry affecting your relationships and health. As the adage goes, “Bitterness is the poison one swallows as he or she hopes the other person dies.”
If resentment is so dangerous, what is the antidote? Forgiveness. If you forgive someone, you stop blaming him or her for the offense. You let go and move on. The Bible says, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32 NIV)
How do you forgive someone? Employ the four steps to forgiveness:
- Acknowledge your anger, then drop it and move on – It’s okay to be angry but don’t allow it to last. Let go of the anger when offended or wronged by someone. Don’t harbor it. Anger can lead to hate and violence. Resentment will break you unless you break it first. Put down the poison and move on
- Stand in their shoes – Realize that everyone is perfectly imperfect. The Christian leader remembers God forgave him or her and that same mercy should be shown to others
- Respond with good not revenge – Forgiveness is a decision, not a feeling. Ask God to change your heart and enable you to return the offense with a positive reaction. Practice the Golden Rule – do to others as you’d have them do to you. Remember, love is patient, kind and doesn’t seek its own way
- Pray – Ask God to forgive you and enable you to forgive the one who offended you
Admittedly, I’ve struggled with resentment for years. I often dwell on circumstances and people when I feel disenfranchised, demoralized or undignified. In the above story, I let my manager get the best of me. I should have taken responsibility for my words and actions. I didn’t need to challenge Kevin after he’d made a decision or chase him into the hallway to confront him. I needed to exercise more self-control and give him space. It would have been better if I’d approached him later, apologized and asked how I could help; personal leadership lessons learned that I applied to future situations.
The good news is that I recognized the impact bitterness was having on me and those around me. I discovered that the best antidote to resentment is forgiveness. I let go of my grudge, and my well-being improved tremendously; I no longer felt the weight of bitterness. I found that my mental outlook improved, relationships healed and I felt much better.
How about you? Do you resent someone? Are you holding a grudge? If so, how is it impacting you? What will happen if you continue holding on to the resentment? Are you willing to forgive the individual? Why not forgive that someone today? If you do, your well-being will improve, your relationships will heal, and you’ll be a more successful 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.