May 13

Develop Empathy

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Empathy, a core component of emotional intelligence (EI), involves the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. It is foundational for building relationships, managing conflicts, and leading effectively. The Six Seconds Model of Emotional Intelligence emphasizes the importance of increasing empathy not just as a natural capacity but as a deliberate practice, which can profoundly affect personal and professional interactions.

Tales From The Trenches

I like to include real life stories when exploring the various aspects of the things that impact our life and work. Here is one I will never forget:

Several years ago, when I was working with someone who was struggling with their life choices, we had a very open conversation about all of the mistakes he had made in his life. I could sense the self-judgement and regret this individual was experiencing. He had built patterns in his brain to reinforce this negative self-talk. It created roadblocks to building trust, good relationships, self-worth, belonging, motivation, and a host of other important elements in their life. That was when the topic of empathy came up in the conversation. This individual looked at me and said, "You sure have a lot of empathy to listen to all of my messes." To which I replied, "Thank you, yes I try to practice empathy as much as I can...I wish you could do that for yourself." Silence. I could see him processing what I had just said. Then a smile. It was one of those rare moments when something you say cuts through all of the noise and resonates deeply with another person. Then he asked the most interesting question..."Do you think that the way I think about my choices and mistakes is keeping me from doing better?" What I wanted to say was, "what do you think." But that is such a stereotypical response. Instead, here is what I said, "If you could turn the judgement you are living in to curiosity, what would that do for you?" A long silence. Then, "It can't be that easy, can it?" No, it isn't that easy, but it can be done.

Here is another true story that shows how important this increase empathy skill is in people's lives:

I was sitting with the owner of a company who was struggling with a toxic culture that had developed in his company. He is a very driven and detail oriented person. I could see the frustration and even anger in him as the conversation continued. Finally, he turned red in the face, looked at me and said, "Why can't people just leave their emotions at the door. You need to FIX these people!"

Oh...so many thoughts went through my head at this point:

  • Emotions drive people, people drive performance - you can't separate the emotions from the person and frankly, you do not want to. Engagement is the emotional commitment that people have to the effort, team, and organization.
  • "Fixing" people is above my pay grade.
  • I am watching this owner demanding people leave their emotions at the door when he was obviously not practicing that himself. I wondered if this was how he was showing up for his people.
  • I predicted his empathy score would be very low...and that was verified when he took the assessment.
two way street

Yes, we need to increase empathy toward others, but we also need to do that for ourselves. How is empathy a part of self-direction in the 3 category EI model (Empathy in the 5 category model)? Because it is the fuel that allows us to move forward. To build trust. To trust yourself. To connect with others in a deeper and more meaningful way. To free ourselves from thinking and feelings (and especially self-talk) that keep us stuck or holds us back...or do more damage than good.

Let's explore this skill of emotional intelligence more deeply.

Definition of Increasing Empathy

Within the Six Seconds Model, increasing empathy is defined as enhancing one’s ability to perceive, understand, and care about the emotions of others. This competency goes beyond simply recognizing someone else’s feelings; it involves engaging with and responding to these emotions in a way that shows understanding and concern. It manifests as a deeper connection with others, leading to more effective and meaningful interactions.

Increasing Empathy in Daily Life

Empathy can be observed in numerous everyday situations:

  • In personal relationships, it appears as understanding someone's stress without them having to explain it explicitly.
  • In the workplace, it can be seen when a manager notices that an employee is struggling and offers support or adapts expectations accordingly.
  •  In broader societal interactions, empathy drives acts of kindness and support with people who may be experiencing hardship or struggles.

Identifying Low Empathy

Signs that might indicate a deficiency in empathy include:

  • Difficulty in understanding why people feel the way they do.
  • Frequent misunderstandings or conflicts with others.
  • An inability to predict or understand others’ reactions.
  •  Comments from others that one seems uncaring or detached.

Consequences of Low Empathy

A low score in empathy can lead to several negative outcomes:

  • Difficulty in forming or maintaining close relationships, as others may feel misunderstood or undervalued.
  • In the workplace, a lack of empathy can contribute to poor morale, lower engagement, higher turnover, and less effective teamwork.
  •  On a personal level, low empathy can lead to isolation or conflict, as individuals may struggle to understand the emotional cues and needs of others.

Benefits of Developing Empathy

Enhancing empathy offers significant advantages:

  • Improved Relationships: Higher empathy leads to stronger, more trusting relationships both personally and professionally.
  • Enhanced Leadership: Leaders with high empathy are better able to motivate and inspire their teams, as well as manage conflicts effectively.
  • Greater Personal Satisfaction: Understanding others deeply can enrich one’s own emotional experiences and increase personal fulfillment.
  •  Social Harmony: Empathy contributes to more compassionate community's, as individuals are more likely to act in ways that benefit others.

Strategies for Developing Empathy

To develop and enhance empathy, consider implementing the following practices:

  • Active Listening: Focus fully on the speaker, observing non-verbal cues and emotions, to better understand their perspective.
  • Perspective-Taking: Actively try to put yourself in another’s shoes to understand their experiences and viewpoints.
  • Emotional Literacy: Improve the ability to identify and describe emotions in yourself and others.
  • Curiosity About Others: Cultivate a genuine interest in the lives and feelings of others, asking open-ended questions to learn more about them.
  •  Empathy Training: Participate in workshops or training programs that focus on developing empathic skills.

Ensuring Growth in Empathy

To ensure sustained growth in empathy, regular reflection on interpersonal interactions is crucial. Seek feedback from trusted peers or mentors about how well you relate to others. Also, setting specific goals related to understanding and responding to the emotions of others can provide clear benchmarks for improvement.

Increasing empathy is a vital emotional intelligence competency that enhances personal relationships, professional effectiveness, and overall well-being. By actively developing this skill, individuals can create deeper connections and more harmoniously navigate the complex social landscapes of both their personal and professional lives.

Copyright © 2024 EQFIT® - Author: Steven Goodner. All rights reserved. No portion of this material may be reproduced in any form without permission from the author, except as permitted by U.S. copyright law. For permissions contact: info@gscfit.com.


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