Empathy is important on all levels of business and personal life. Understanding varying points of view is invaluable in solving problems effectively. Empathy is also essential in helping you build relationships, lead teams and design better products. Now more than ever we have to look out for each other and show true empathy.
But what is empathy anyway? We should start by defining it. There are three kinds of empathy, each can be useful, and they all have strengths and weaknesses.
Types of Empathy
- Cognitive Empathy This is taking another individuals point of view, walking a mile in their shoes. Pro – The ability to study and understand multiple perspectives is very useful. Con – If it is used without personal and emotional understanding, it can come across as calculating or harsh
- Emotional Empathy This is literally feeling another persons emotions. Pro – Good for showing support Con – May cause burnout or may be unprofessional in certain settings
- Compassionate Empathy This is the ability to understand a persons emotional state, feel in tune with that state, and demonstrate appropriate concern. Pro – This is best for business settings, it shows the ability to understand a point of view, demonstrate a genuine interest in solving a problem and prevent it from happening again. In short, it shows that you care, nothing really negative about that.
“In reality, we all have some level of each of the types of empathy. The key is to understand the ways that we are empathic with others, and to realize the strengths and limitations of each type of empathy.” -Ronald E Riggio Ph.D.
Getting a handle on remote work basically comes down to trust, clear communication, and technology. So relax, you were hired because you are really good at your job, you can do this. If you are a leader, remember that you hired great people and they are gonna do great work.
We’ve shown the need for empathy, but how can you develop it? Luckily there are lots of ways to work on building empathy.
Start with yourself
- Meditation. It can be a little self-conscious at first, but once you get the hang of it, meditation offers great rewards. Understanding yourself is a good first step to understanding others.
- Exercise. The struggle of getting through a tough work-out can help you be more understanding of struggle in general. So run that extra mile, do that extra set.
- Volunteer. Get first hand experience helping others less fortunate than yourself. This one is self explanatory and helps you be more aware of others and more grateful for what you have.
Developing Empathy for Others
- Observation, interview and immersion. Listen to people. Talk to people. Walk a mile in their shoes. Repeat.
- Keep an open mind. Be willing to understand a situation from multiple perspectives and learn something
- Take action. Listen, understand, then take action to solve a given problem
- Follow-up. Make sure you stay engaged, circle back and overlap empathy and action
- Be Consistent. Make a habit of using empathy, set goals and make a schedule.
- Recognize success. Remember we are all in this together. You know your team is working hard, so tell them when you notice. Make sure to say thank you for a job well done, celebrate achievements and give credit where credit is due.
The great thing about empathy is that you can practice it and build on it every day. Understanding point of view goes a long way toward building trust for co-workers, leaders, employees, clients, vendors, and stakeholders. Empathy helps to find better solutions to complex problems and develop products that serve a real need. In the end, it’s something everyone can benefit from.
We understand times are difficult right now and we want you to know Buttonwood is here for our clients, vendors, partners and employees. We are in this together, and whenever you are ready to celebrate any victory great or small, we are here to help.
References & More Info:
Are You Empathic?…
The Neuroscience of Empathy
Making Empathy Central to Your Company Culture
https://hbr.org/2019/05/making-empathy-central-to-your-company-culture Crazy One Podcast: Understanding and applying empathy in your work http://thecrazy1.com/episode-47-creativity-understanding-and-applying-empathy-in-your-work/
Why Emapthy is the Most Important Skill You’ll Ever Need to Suceed
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