How to develop empathy in workplace?

Paul Robinson shares an insight on developing empathy in the workplace

Empathy is the bedrock of intimacy and close connection; in its absence, relationships remain emotionally shallow, defined largely by mutual interests or shared activities.

Empathy is the ability to experience and relate to the motives, emotions or experience of others. It’s your ability to step into someone else’s shoes, be aware of their feelings and understand their needs. According to Dr. Daniel Goleman, it is one of the five key components of EQ (emotional intelligence) and the one that is most critical in developing and retaining employees.

People who score low on empathy have concern only about themselves. When you are disrespectful, interruptive, bullying, making fun of others or not listening to others you are being just the opposite of being empathetic.

To be empathic, you have to think beyond yourself and your own concerns. Workplace is a collection of different individuals with different backgrounds, differences and perspectives. When you are empathetic with each other you connect better with people, build mutual trust and work on achieving goals together.

You are empathetic when you show deep respect for your co-worker. A sign of respect is listening to others and feeling what others feel when they express their deep concerns, aspirations and ideas. When you value others, you pay attention to what they have to say and contribute.

You are empathetic when you acknowledge others point of view and perspectives. Understanding others develop deeper bonding between teams and people will begin to act with more trust and transparency. They will begin to pay attention to others point of views and this can lead to better communication and greater creativity and innovation between team members.

Where there is empathy in workplace, people are given with more priority that just rules and regulations. Empathetic workplace will respect each person’s roles within an organization and nothing will be judged as superior or inferior roles. The general understanding will be that each person is important as pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Conflicts are easily resolved by mutual understanding. There will be better understanding between people from different departments and divisions and you can see them collaborating with each other. There will be healthy debate and collective decision-making is encouraged when everyone’s point of view is acknowledged.

Empathy is a skill that can be developed. When you develop an ability to begin a conversation with others and asking about their well being, you are learning to develop empathy. When you listen without judgment and interruptions you are developing empathy. When you are interested in others and being interesting to others, you are being empathetic. When you are humble and humane or when you give genuine recognition to others, you are being empathetic in your workplace.

Overall empathy requires three things: listening, openness and understanding.

Caring for others is a clear sign of empathy. As the saying goes, nobody cares about your leadership, if you don’t care for your people. Developing an empathic approach is perhaps the most significant effort you can make toward improving your people skills. When you understand others, they’ll probably want to understand you – and this is how you can start to build cooperation, collaboration, and teamwork.

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