"When you show deep empathy toward others, their defense energy goes down, and positive energy replaces it.That's when you can get more creative in solving problems."- Stephen Covey
Empathy is the ability to put oneself in another's shoes, being able to understand other's state of mind. When you drop your perspective, your judgment, your views (both conscious & unconscious) and simply listen to the other person's perspective, recognize, experience the outlook or his/her emotions as they are and can not only acknowledge those emotions but truly feel them within & offer your support, that's deep empathy. For a person to be truly empathetic, he/she should have compassion, respect for the person, creativity of mind, leadership depth, clarity, openness at heart along with emotional & spiritual intelligence. Many a times, we just don't understand the other person, because we just use our judgement and bring our angle to it. The moment we do this, we disconnect from the person. We shut the other person from opening up to us. We come across as intimidating, distrustful and cold. And who would want to open up to such a person?!
Empathy is power. It helps in understanding a person in depth, build fruitful relationship, develop meaningful communications & this in turn results in better problem solving. It is important to develop empathy not only at personal level but also at professional level and unleash it's power. Empathy is very different from sympathy. Empathy opens up the doors to possibilities. To be able to lead, influence, nurture or even help/support another, one needs to be empathetic. That's the key to leadership & people excellence. Without this, deep understanding cannot be created which in turn will result in not so great scenarios.
Here's an example. A simple discussion between Manager & team member around some project completion issues. The names are randomly selected & doesn't refer to any specific persons.
Rohan (Manager): What's up Mohan?
Mohan (Team member): Nothing, just feeling unwell.
Rohan (Manager): Oh! Go to a doctor after office. Tell me more about the project. Where are we with it's progress?
Mohan (Team member): Trying hard to meet the deadline.
Rohan (Manager): What's wrong? We were supposed to complete it by this week. I trusted you and you were really keen on picking this up. But, look at you. You have disappointed me.
Mohan(Team member): The client keeps changing their requirements and one of our team members had to deal with a personal loss. We are short with resources.
Rohan (Manager): No excuses please, just hand over the project to me by this week. That's it.
Do you think the outcome of this discussion could have been better had the Manager listened to his team member with empathy & accordingly guided him towards a creative solution? Of course, this could have been better. But, many a times we just don't care to be empathetic. Empathy is a choice that we make because we know its power.
What are the four key elements of empathy?
1. See their world.
2. Understand their feelings.
3. Communicate understanding.
4. Appreciate them without judgments.
The empathy map was originally created by Dave Gray. An empathy map is a collaborative tool teams can use to gain a deeper insight into their customers. This tool can be used by HR professionals, business leaders and people managers to have better understanding about their team & people.
Empathy can be practiced only when you genuinely care for people, respect their individuality and truly want to make a difference. When "Us" becomes more important than "I", empathy starts manifesting its power.
Life & Organizational Development Coach