Empathy: Have You Got It?
If you believe effective communication is an important leadership skill, you surely can’t ignore empathy. That’s because empathy is a precursor to being an effective communicator. How? Empathy is about understanding or being aware of other people’s feelings even when you don’t agree or relate to them. This awareness helps to understand other people’s perception. And when you are in know of other’s perception, you can choose to ‘act’ rather than ‘react’ to situations.
So when a high performing employee starts slacking off, a non-empathetic leader will probably react by doubting the employee’s ability. But an empathetic leader will give the benefit of doubt and ask, “Is everything ok? Is something bothering you?”
Empathy is a skill that can break down barriers and open doors to possibilities. It’s when employees let their guard down and freely express their thoughts. Empathy gives a chance to connect with employees that can reveal important information such as reasons for poor employee performance and/or other workplace issues.
The workplace perception from an employee’s point-of-view can be used to make necessary adjustments and changes. This eventually can lead to fruitful employee engagement, high productivity and increased morale, while helping leaders in building and developing relationships with employees. Empathy can also inspire trust and loyalty among employees.
So how can leaders develop empathy? One: by being great listeners. And two: by being non-judgmental.
Only when you really focus on listening, can you gather verbal and non-verbal cues of the person speaking to you. This can help you in asking the right questions. Once you are aware of the other person’s perception, you should analyze it and respond without judging whether that perception is right or wrong. Empathy is useful and effective only when you use the acquired perception to make an objective decision.
Empathy is like a thinking muscle that grows when practiced and shared. Imagine yourself in the other person’s shoes and cultivate empathy to communicate effectively and build strong teams.