Winter is winding down and soon we can enjoy the rebirth of
nature and the beauty of SPRING. This is always a good time
to recommit to your own personal growth and development. Take
some time as you enjoy the season to reflect on your growth
Be sure to discuss your growth with your coach. Your coach
will hold you accountable for how you want to grow.
Now for this months thoughts about:
| Empathy in Everyday Conversations
|Self-absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let
alone compassion. When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts
as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus
on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the
periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our
capacity for connectionor compassionate action.
~ Psychologist Daniel Goleman, Social Intelligence: The New
Science of Human Relationships (Bantam, 2007)
Everyone wants to be seen, heard and appreciated. But not that many
peopleespecially in workplacesknow how to communicate
so others feel seen, heard and appreciated. Most of us are too focused
on conveying our own messages.
Empathy isnt defined as having warm feelings for all of humanity
as we strive for peace on Earth. Its not about warm and
fuzzy feelings for someone else (although that may well happen).
Empathy involves understanding others thoughts and feelingsgaining
true awareness by asking questions and actively listening.
Relationships are built on empathy. Unfortunately, many people erroneously
assume theyre empathic. Poorly expressed or absent empathy leads
to misunderstandings, lack of trust and uncooperative friends/family/colleagues.
Superficial connections with colleagues are often accepted as the
norm. We let superficiality slip into our relationships with friends
and family, as well, sometimes using humor as a handy substitute for
getting to know and understand each other.
But a lack of empathy has wide-reaching consequences. No one intends
to keep others at a distance, but thats what happens when we
pay insufficient attention to others emotions. Perhaps were
afraid of coming across as overly touchy-feely, so we go to the other
extreme: relying on logic and common sense, ignoring all feelings.
Neither extreme benefits our relationships or communication efforts.
Communication is never a one-way street. While people want to hear
what you have to say, theyre more interested in knowing that
you care about them. Theodore Roosevelt said it well: Nobody
cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.
Empathy lubricates authentic connections, allowing us to build trust
and influence. It requires more than just seeing and feeling.
Many of us confuse empathy with sympathy. Sympathy is feeling for
a person. Empathy is feeling with a personan important distinction.
When were empathic, we put ourselves in others shoes and
imagine the world from their perspective. Humans have an innate ability
to do this. The mirror neurons in our brains pick up other peoples
conscious and unconscious cues. This triggers our own feelings and
thoughts, allowing us to align with others. Our brain waves actually
Empathy is critical if youre interested in persuading others,
reaching mutually beneficial solutions, or building connection and
influence. Members of high-performing teams consistently show high
levels of empathy for one another. They care enough to ask:
- What makes you who you are?
- What do you really care about?
| Mastering Everyday Empathy
Coaches Belle Linda Halpern and Kathy Lubar, cofounders of The Ariel
Group, offer three key guidelines for everyday empathy in Leadership
Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate, and Inspire
(Gotham Books, 2004):
Empathy requires you to find the humanity in someone else. Be willing to accept others’ weaknesses and imperfections, paving the way to authentic and potentially rewarding relationships.
- Learn what makes a person tick.
Make it a goal to find out more about people: what they like,
dislike and are passionate about. The mere act of asking a question
or two soothes the way for future conversations and collaboration.
It doesn’t take much time, doesn’t annoy anyone (unless done
inappropriately) and can be fun. Of course, it’s easier with
people you like and more difficult with someone you dislike
or mistrust. Try it with a wide range of people to see how asking
questions improves communication.
- Link others’ feelings to your own.
Most of us share similar memories. We’ve taken part in parallel
events and experienced universal emotions, allowing us to relate
to one another. Find such commonalities when engaged in conversation.
Of course, details and specifics will vary, so don’t assume
you know exactly how someone else feels. Each of us processes
experiences and emotions differently. Start by asking yourself:
“If I had the same background as this person and found myself
in the same situation, how would I feel?”
Many of us were brought up to believe we should leave our feelings
at the door when we come to work. Brain research and economic
studies have disproved this old chestnut. In reality, we need
to experience feelings to make good decisions. Your challenge
is to unlock your feelings at work in an appropriate fashion—one
that ideally yields results.
- Practice expressing empathy, even with those you dislike.
Feelings can be a complex jumble, and conflicts among them can
get in the way of experiencing and expressing empathy. If someone
is angry and blames you for a given problem, your first response
usually isn’t empathy.
It’s impossible to connect and understand someone’s perspective
at the height of conflict. You’re probably thinking, “I’m right,
he’s wrong, and I have to prove I’m right.” But if you can take
a deep breath and step back long enough to see the world through
his eyes, you’ll have a greater chance of gaining ground.
Strong emotions like anger, fear and guilt block our efforts
to empathize unless we accept these feelings as part of our
fundamental emotional makeup. Be compassionate with, and learn
to forgive, yourself. Only then can you extend the gifts of
compassion and forgiveness to others.
You can always find something to appreciate about a person you
dislike. Have the courage to find and express your appreciation.
You’ll be surprised at the results.
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