Empathy is like a super power – helping you beam yourself into another person’s shoes, forge dynamo relationships or empower your team to greater heights in a single bound. Okay, maybe not quite like that but you know what I mean!
Tapping into empathy deepens your emotional intelligence – a much better predictor of success, the quality of your relationships, and overall happiness than IQ. And it can be invaluable when people are going through periods of growth or change.
Truly empathizing with someone one-on-one calls on your inner strength. So, before you begin a conversation, show up with presence. Check out Amy Cuddy’s advice on connecting with your internal Wonder Woman. When you are present, you are open, approachable and at your most authentic. Through your body language, you communicate your receptiveness and engagement to what another person is saying.
Here are some thoughts on how to access empathy and build deeper understanding with colleagues, loved ones or even your arch nemesis.
- Tap into your curiosity. Put yourself in the role of a detective or journalist. You want to know everything and this person has your full attention.
- Listen intently...not just with your ears but with all of your senses, to pick up on their body language, their tone of voice and the words they use.
- Validate what they are saying. “It sounds like you’ve done a lot of hard work on this project.”
- Reflect back what you are hearing. “It sounds like you have really been struggling with this.”
- Ask questions. “What do you feel about this?” or “What is your biggest challenge?”
- Imagine what it would feel like to be in this situation yourself. What emotion does it trigger in you?
- Use your confidence and openness to be vulnerable with this person. When appropriate, relay a short example of when you felt the same way and what it was like for you.
- Note for yourself the things you have in common with this person. What experiences do you share? How are you alike?
- Resist the urge to fix the problem. Ask them what they would like to do to resolve it and what you can do to support them.
- Champion this person by helping them identify how you see the change can benefit them personally. In the case of a colleague, let them know what you see in them that will be invaluable in moving the organization forward. What role do they have to play in the vision?
Exploring your empathy for others can deepen your growth as a person. And when used with sincerity and generosity, it can help you bring people together – for profound connections with more shazam!