The struggle of my life created empathy – I could relate to pain, being abandoned, having people not love me. Oprah Winfrey
Great leaders are empathetic. Tomorrows jobs will require even more empathy. Forbes writer, George Anders calls it the The Number 1 job skill in 2020 and The Soft Skill that Pays 100K +. So go get great at empathy. You’ll be a better leader, and make more money. Wait, how do you do that? There’s growing evidence empathy can be learned.
5 Ways to Get Better at Empathy
1. Experience pain. No, I’m not saying go live a crappy life. But, when life sucks sit with that pain. Feel what’s happening, don’t ignore it. Work to process your reactions. Pay attention to who is helpful, and who is not. Discover what feels empathetic to you. When others share their stories, work to connect to common experiences in your life or in those closest to you.
2. Collect and reflect: Dr. Paul Furey says, “Listening with empathy requires you to first pick up information about the other person: 1. How they feel, 2. What about, 3. Why they feel that way and then reflecting that back to them in a short sentence – a humble guess about ‘where they are’. e.g. “1.You’re annoyed 2. about me being late 3. and I had promised to be on time too!” This works great in a customer service environment. Tune in tomorrow for my podcast interview with Dr. Furey.
3. Suspend judgement: Empathy is not opinion. Your opinion may be needed, at some point. Start with understanding and connection.
4. Work on related EQ Skills e.g.. active listening, understanding non-verbals, questioning, thinking from another’s perspective.
5. Practice Harvard University is even piloting a game which teaches students to “walk in another person’s shoes.” Approach situations with a deliberate focus on listening more deeply, reflecting back, understanding and connecting.
So, can we teach empathy? Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™ shares,
“The act of showing empathy is teachable. The signs to look for in others are teachable. The pace to feel others needs is teachable. The only thing that is not teachable is “desire” to do it. I can inspire it yet in the end others must want to do it”
What would you add? How can you teach and learn empathy?