Empathy comes more naturally for some of us than others.
But we all have the capacity to empathize and connect with one another. And we can all learn to get better. Leaders who can connect empathically with others can build trust and improve team performance.
In a recent article in Harvard Business Review – “Empathy Rules” – the author, Sherry Turkle, says that:
“Empathy is the act of putting yourself in someone else’s problem in hopes of understanding, of bridging a gap. It helps us feel in community . . .”
Following are four ways she suggests that we can further develop our capacity to engage empathically with one another:
*Embrace Not Knowing. Begin with the perspective “I don’t know how you feel, but I am here to listen.” You might think you are being helpful by saying “I know just how you feel; I went through the same thing!” – but it can backfire! Maybe you went through something similar, but you do not know their experience. Stay open and listen to the other’s story.
*Embrace Radical Difference. When people feel differently than we do, this can create conflict. We need to work through this with mutual respect for one another.
*Embrace Commitment. Begin with a commitment to listen and build community as you get to know one another better. Stick with the process even though it takes continuing energy.
*Embrace Community. Use what you learn about others to build community and appreciate that you are a part of something larger than yourself. Focus on your mission and collectively making a difference.
Empathizing takes time, patience, and emotional energy. This is yet another reason why it is important for leaders to practice self-care. Empathizing more effectively with others will build trust, deepen feelings of community, and enhance your team’s capabilities to make a Mission Impact.
*Ideas for this blog taken from: Turkle, S. “Empathy Rules,” Harvard Business Review Online, February 17, 2022.