EMPATHY: Bright side = trust-builder. Dark side = "soft". Dare to be "soft". Mark Myette
We continue our journey for more detail of each SERVANT LEADERSHIP competency Robert Greenleaf identified. This week we discuss Empathy.
Simply put, empathy is feeling with other people. People who practice empathy can sense other people's feelings by imagining themselves in others' lives and circumstances. It's a "sixth sense" of how other people feel and it can perceive and understand complex emotions. Empathy is NOT a cerebral understanding of others' emotions, rather a gut level relationship to other's emotions. People with strong empathy can build and form relationships with emotional depth. No surprise, empathetic people are sought since they induce comfort, stability AND emotional connectedness with others.
Characteristics of the Empathetic:
Ask great questions
Value the Empathetic Bring:
Anticipate others’ needs;
Hear unvoiced questions;
Help others find the right words to express feelings;
See the world through others’ eyes.
Sense others’ emotions.
The Difference Between Empathy and Sympathy
When you’re sympathetic, you might feel pity for the other person’s situation, but there’s still a distance between you and their experience. When you’re empathetic, you don’t just know how someone else feels; you understand how they feel, and you feel it with them. More details:
Empathy versus Sympathy comparison chart
Can You Become Empathetic?
YES AND NO!
NO if you don't care to learn and not open to understand others.
YES if you care to learn and open to understand others practice these 5 steps.
1. Authentically Listen More Than You Speak
Most speak twice as much as listen. It’s easy to get so caught up explaining something we fail to stop and consider what the other person might be thinking or feeling. An empathetic person, on the other hand, listens first; and only speaks after they’ve carefully heard.
This also means being curious! Asking thoughtful questions based on what you hear. NOT to respond but to UNDERSTAND!
2. Express Your Perspective
After you’ve heard the other person completely, you’re in position to express empathy by voicing how you’d feel in that situation. For example:
“That must feel awful!"
“I would be challenged to know what to do!”
"My stomach is churning just thinking of it."
“It’s hard for me to hear you since the situation makes me feel so fill-in-the-blank.”
All ways to show you understand how the other person is feeling.
KEY THING: the statement(s) must be genuine! Imagine exactly what the other person is going through. Put yourself in their shoes, experience the moment as if it were happening to you, and let your emotions guide you. More often than not, your emotional response will be similar to theirs; and will help the other person feel understood and heard, leading to a greater sense of connection.
3. Be Vulnerable
Too many conversations stay in emotional “safe zones.” We fear vulnerability since we worry others may perceive us as push-overs or weak. To the contrary. "Vulnerability helps us connect with others, since it communicates we’re human; complete with our own weaknesses, hurts, and fears. This creates a feeling of “sameness” and gives the other something to connect." according to Brené Brown - who has spent the past sixteen years studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy and is the author of three #1 New York Times bestsellers – The Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly, and Rising Strong.
Put simply: don’t be afraid to ask for help. Asking for help shows vulnerability, and vulnerability often leads to that greater sense of connection, relation, and self-awareness. . So, here are three steps to being more vulnerable:
- After you’ve authentically listened to the other person, try to think of a time when you were in a similar situation.
- Remember what / how you felt.
- Express those feelings to the other person, then share what you learned through the process.
By sharing our own emotions, insecurities and mistakes, we will connect; and it's this common ground that is one of the most important foundations you can form in a relationship.
4. Don’t Make Assumptions
The enemy of empathy is assumptions! As was once famously shared on a 70's TV sitcom "The Odd Couple", "Assumptions make an ASS of U and ME!" Assumptions indicate preconceived notions not based on true understanding or experience.
Assumptions are also dangerous to empathy because we use assumptions as shortcuts to solve a problem. Unfortunately, when we take shortcuts, we don’t get the full picture. We don’t “solve” the problem - if anything, we distance ourselves from the other. No surprise, this leaves the person we might be trying to help thinking, “She doesn’t understand my situation,” or, “He’s not someone I should turn to because he doesn’t listen.”
So don’t rush empathy, and try to empathize before you understand the situation!
5. Use Your Imagination
Here’s the challenge: You’re not going to be able to relate to every experience from every person you engage. Yet, to empathize, you need some form of connection and understanding. The ability to imagine what someone else is feeling — even if you haven’t experienced it — is important. If it is within your imagination - LEAN INTO it! If it's beyond your imagination, SAY IT! Be truthful.
Results of Empathy
1. Fosters good, pleasurable and positive feelings.
2. Induces a sense of connectedness.
3. Promotes emotional well-being and physical health.
4. Helps address psychological challenges (loneliness, alienation, anxiety, fear, depression, despair, shame, etc).
5. Provides an active ingredient in conflict resolution.
6. Becomes a source of creativity, innovation and action.
7. Creates a gateway to socially desirable values.
8. Expands perspectives.
Call to Action
Empathy takes practice. It takes commitment. It takes focus. Simply try and you will find you can AND will get better at it!
My best to your quest!
I believe each of us is a gift. I create trusted relationships where individuals, teams and leaders NAME, CLAIM and AIM their gifts to achieve optimum performance.
Interested to Learn About Yourself or Your Team? Mark is a Certified CliftonStrengths Coach, Facet5 and TotalSDI Facilitator and happy to discuss your situation.
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About Mark Myette
I believe each of us is a gift. I create trusted
Based out Roam - Buckhead - 3365 Piedmont Rd NE, Suite 1400 (2nd Floor), Atlanta, GA 30305
Can meet at other Roam locations if appropriate: Alpharetta; Dunwoody; or Galleria