Empathy is a primary key to conflict resolution. However, like other keys, it tends to go missing just when we need it.

In fact, some filmmakers felt so strong about it’s importance, they’ve begun a movie project, called Stand in My Shoes. From their website:

Do we have an “empathy deficit”?  We see the costs of our “me-first” mindset: record breakdowns in relationships, endemic corruption, environmental degradation, inequitable social structures, and a whole generation increasingly unable to deeply connect - to anything or anyone.  Now, scientists have confirmed we’re experiencing a steep decline in our capacity for empathy. Empathy is at the heart of human connection. It ‘s the glue that keeps us together.   With it in short supply, what will become of us as a species?

So what exactly is empathy and how exactly how do we best use it in our workplace? One blog describes it as having 7 elements.

1. Emotional intelligence is the cognitive ability involving traits and social skills that facilitate interpersonal behavior. It involves understanding emotions including non verbal signals, body language and facial expressions. Responding appropriately to the emotions of others is key to facilitating insight.

2. Mindset – Staying human and having the right attitude to connect to another person at that moment when they need you the most.

3. Present – You are present and in the now.  It is not about the past or future but being aware about another person’s feeling at that moment.

4. Attention – Demonstrate your interest in the person through your body language, facial expression, and gestures to encourage someone to continue speaking. “Give whatever you are doing and whoever you are with the gift of your attention” ~Jim Rohn

5. To Listen - You listen to understand rather than respond.  Sometimes, in order to elicit more of a response from the other party, you need to pause and say nothing.

6. Help Encourage – Use supportive comments to get someone to continue to open up. Gestures like nodding your head, appropriate facial expressions, eye contact can accompany, “I see,” “Really,” or “Oh no” to provide the necessary encouragement for the person to continue to release the emotional turmoil they are going through.

7. You Recognize Feelings:  Feelings reveal critical aspects of what is important to a person.  Identifying an impasse by Saying, “I see that you are angry” or “I am sorry but something seems to be upsetting you,” are ways you can bring someone’s feelings out into the open.

In Summary, by empathizing you show that you care, you are listening and you are concerned of the other person’s ideas, feelings and how it has impacted the other’s perception.

At work, it seems to me a lack of empathy is resulting in everything from lack of employee engagement and loyalty to workplace violence.

As leaders, it’s our job to understand our constituents and how they feel and think about their work and their workplace. When we have empathy, we can communicate more effectively and engage people in meaningful discussion about how to make things better.

Have you been inspired by someone’s empathy as a leader? Share your story - we want to hear about it!


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