Empathy is valued currency. It
allows us to create bonds of
trust, it gives us insights into what others may be feeling
or thinking; it helps us understand how or why others are
reacting to situations, it sharpens our “people acumen” and
informs our decisions. Empathy is also particularly critical to
leadership development in this age of young, independent,
highly marketable and mobile workers.
A formal definition of Empathy is
the ability to identify and understand another’s situation,
feelings and motives. It’s our capacity to recognize the
other people have. Empathy means: “putting yourself in the
other person’s shoes” or “seeing things through someone else’s
We all know some people who are
naturally and consistently empathetic – these are the people who
forge positive connections with others. They are people who
use empathy to engender trust and build bonds; they are
catalysts who are able to create positive communities for the
greater good. But even if empathy does not come naturally to
some of us, I firmly believe that we can develop this capacity.
People Skills 360
Here are a few practical tips you
might consider to help you do this:
– truly listen to people.
Listen with your ears, eyes and heart. Pay attention to
body language, to their tone of voice, to the hidden
emotions behind what they are saying to you, and to the
interrupt people. Don't dismiss their concerns
offhand. Don't rush to give advice. Don't change the
subject. Allow people their moment.
in to non-verbal communication. This is the way
that people often communicate what they think or feel, even
when their verbal communication says something quite
the 93% rule. We know from a famous study by Professor
Emeriti, Albert Mehrabian of UCLA, that words – the things we say –
account for only 7% of the total message that people receive. The other
93% of the message that
we communicate when we speak is contained in our tone of
body language. It's important, then, to spend some time
to understand how we come across when we communicate with others. A
simple thing like frowning or a raised eyebrow when someone is
explaining their point of view can disconnect us from the speaker and
make us appear as though we lack understanding.
people's name. Also remember the names of
people's spouse and children so that you can refer to them
fully present when you are with people. Don't
check your email, look at your watch or take phone calls
when a direct report drops into your office to talk to you.
Put yourself in their shoes. How would you feel if your boss
did that to you.
Encourage people, particularly the quiet ones,
when they speak up in meetings. A simple thing like an
attentive nod can boost people's confidence.
genuine recognition and praise. Pay attention to
what people are doing and catch them doing the right things.
When you give praise, spend a little effort to make your
genuine words memorable: "You are an asset to this team
because…."; "This was pure genius"; "I would have missed
this if you hadn't picked it up."
personal interest in people. Show people that you
care, and genuine curiosity about their lives.
Ask them questions about their hobbies, their
challenges, their families, their aspirations.