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Many people might think that to be successful, all you need is to be knowledgeable in your field of business. However, they’re forgetting that business is built on more than just knowledge, it’s also built on relationships. You cannot be successful if you’re alienating your customers, or your team. It’s critical to have the self-awareness necessary to develop and maintain good working relationships. In our Emotional Intelligence Workshop we teach many of the interpersonal skills needed to succeed in business. Today we’re giving you a glimpse into our section on empathy, one of the cornerstones of emotional intelligence.

Empathy Defined

In a 2017 article for Harvard Business Review entitled “What is Empathy,” Daniel Goleman breaks down empathy into three components:  emotional empathy, cognitive empathy, and empathic concern. Goleman suggests that all three have value, but may be used best in different areas.

  • Emotional Empathy: The ability to feel what someone else feels.
  • Cognitive Empathy: The ability to understand another’s perspective.
  • Empathic Concern: The ability to sense what others need from you.

Positive Outcomes for the Empathic

Maintaining empathy has benefits that are directly attributed to you. For one thing, it feels good to be empathetic. Studies show that displaying empathy to others lights up the pleasure centers in our brains. These feelings foster our own emotional AND physical wellbeing.

Possessing and demonstrating empathy for others is also socially desirable. Other people like this trait in us, and this allows us to make friends easily. Empathy also helps us develop deeper, more meaningful, relationships.

In work environments, possessing cognitive empathy helps us communicate effectively. Good communication and empathy increases our ability to influence our subordinates, which allows us to optimize their performance levels. Understanding the positions (and the attached emotions) of others also allows for a more natural path to mitigate conflict, and puts you in a superior position in negotiations.

Leading With Emotional Intelligence

Empathy expands our perspectives by allowing us to know what others know. This knowledge of what others are thinking, or how they are feeling, will enable us to see things in a new light. These new perspectives can lead us to explore creative ideas that would not have been explored if we only saw things our own way.

The Benefits of Your Empathy on Others

The benefits associated with empathy are not limited to our own wellbeing, such as the ability to influence others, or gain new perspectives. There are also tangible benefits for those who are the recipients of our compassion. Most notably, when someone is hurting and knows that someone is there for them, and understands what they are going through, it helps to mitigate their sorrow. They can see and feel that they are not alone.

Experiencing empathy from others also increases our resiliency. When people are anxious, or filled with sorrow, or frankly any negative emotions, they shut down. Productivity at work suffers, and relationships will also suffer if they stay in that shut-down state. When we are angry, frustrated, or sad, we tend to lead with those feelings when we react to others. Communicating with someone who has empathy and understanding will diffuse these emotions, and allows productivity to return.

WHEN A PERSON REALIZES HE HAS BEEN DEEPLY HEARD, HIS EYES BEGIN TO MOISTEN, I THINK IN SOME REAL SENSE HE IS WEEPING FOR JOY. IT IS AS THOUGH HE WERE SAYING “THANK GOD, SOMEBODY HEARD ME. SOMEONE KNOWS WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE ME.” — CARL ROGERS

Benefits to Your Business

Increased productivity may be the first thing you will notice when you have lent an empathic ear to an employee. As noted above, emotionally distressed people are not at their best, and therefore cannot give you their best at work. You will also notice heightened loyalty with those to whom you have provided this level of concern. Simply put, people (including staff) care for those who care for them.

Empathy also allows for the development of trust at a much deeper level, and you will get more out of employees who trust you. The first step in developing empathy is awareness. Listening to another person’s thoughts and feelings is the only way to improve your level of awareness.

It’s important to recognize whether or not you are listening well and practicing empathy during a discussion. Use the checklist tool below to monitor your empathy the next time you are facing an important discussion.

Empathy Checklist Tool

  • Are you engaged in the discussion, or are you focused or distracted?
  • How are you displaying this level of engagement during the conversation?
  • Are you able to “put yourself in their shoes,” to understand where they are coming from?
  • Describe what you believe they are feeling.
  • What lead you to that conclusion?
  • What were your feelings after the conversation?

The Importance of Empathy and Emotional Intelligence

When you look at the Empathy Checklist and reflect on recent conversations you’ve had, you might realize that there’s some room for improvement. Self-awareness is a critical part of emotional intelligence because it allows you to recognize where you need to grow, and work on relationships. The easiest place to start is with empathy. The research is clear that listening with empathy creates trust and loyalty, and builds relationships. It’s critically important to develop your relationships with your team if you want to optimize your success, and create an atmosphere that encourages growth. If you are interested in learning more about our Emotional Intelligence Workshop, or you need help developing your team, contact us today!

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