Have you ever seen a 3-year-old child laughing hard at another crying with distress or pain? If you haven’t, can you visualize a scene like that? How about two grown-ups in a similar scene, a grown-up laughing at another grown-up in pain or sorrow, at least do you remember any movie scenes?
As I became privileged to be a father to my son, I started experiencing life differently with his existence and company. Thanks to him, I am convinced that we come into this world well equipped with empathetic skills, but do we tend to lose these skills as we grow up?
This realization was an intriguing one for me as I kept coming across with empathy and emotional intelligence topics being presented and talked about as one of the important traits to be a successful and inspirational leader. I wanted to better understand what they are and why they are so important for today’s leaders who aspire to be inspirational ones.
Definition of Empathy
There are various definitions of empathy. The simplest and the most effective one for me was feeling with people as Brené Brown put it and this is how it is different than sympathy, which can be considered as feeling for people.
Feeling with people (empathy) requires you to see and feel the situation from my perspective by putting yourself into my shoes, while feeling for people (sympathy) is acknowledging my situation.
When you experience bad news such as the loss of a loved one, a co-worker can be sympathetic and say; “I am sorry for your loss, it sucks.” Regarding empathy, a co-worker can say “I am sorry for your loss, I know it feels terrible, what are the things that I can help you with?”
For simplicity, empathy drives connectedness with others, while sympathy does not necessarily.
“Empathy is the ability to step outside of your own bubble and into the bubbles of other people.” – C. Joybell
Types of Empathy
There are a few types of empathy mentioned, including, but not limited to, cognitive (taking the perspective of another) and emotional (feeling the emotions of another).
While there is some research indicating that the human brain responds differently when cognitive and emotional empathy are activated, I like to consider them as not separate. Both types of empathy resonate with me as a whole; taking others’ perspectives in order to feel the emotions as they feel so that we can act accordingly.
Psychologist Daniel Goleman, indicates empathy as a component of emotional intelligence, actually one of the 12 emotional intelligence competencies. Why is emotional intelligence and/or one of its core competencies, empathy important for leaders? I tend to believe, we mostly follow leaders who we connect with, through emotions and feelings, rather than logic.
Just like we mostly make our decisions based on our feelings and then we force fit them to reason. The leader mentioned here is not necessarily the organizationally hierarchical manager, but they could be anyone who takes care of others and drives them towards a compelling vision.
Emotional intelligence, thus empathy, comes into the picture not only when there is sadness, but also when there is happiness. A leader with strong emotional intelligence acknowledges that recognizing and appreciating the successful performance of two individuals with different personality factors better not be the same. Jackie is a self-driven, result oriented, and fact-based go-getter while Jack is driven by collaboration, team effort and has a high need for affiliation.
An effective way to recognize Jackie’s efforts might be to demonstrate how her results fit within the broader organization’s overall performance, thus her positive and significant impact by numbers. While Jack will appreciate being recognized for his efforts’ resulting in enhancing the team’s spirit and taking everyone to the next level in collaboration. By doing so, both Jackie and Jack will potentially feel more fulfilled, motivated and engaged while appreciating their leader for recognizing and feeling their perspective.
“Emotional intelligence is your ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others, and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships.” – Travis Bradberry
The first time my 3-year-old-son saw a cartoon character get hurt on TV, he said, “he hurt himself, he is in pain” and started crying as if he was hurt himself. A baby will probably start crying if she hears another one crying and will smile back upon receiving that smile with the warmth generated from her mom’s unconditional love.
So, I don’t know if growing up kills empathy, but I feel like it isn’t promoted as we typically start establishing personal barriers and biases as part of the growing up process, which makes it difficult to understand and feel with others. I want to believe that we don’t lose it completely but inhibit and we can learn it back from our kids. They will do this free of charge and as good as corporate training instructors, executive and personal coaches, as long as we have the willingness.
Therefore, the first step to take is just to recognize that empathy is not something to learn as a new skill but to bring back from our childhood, which we all surely had once.
Can you think of a time where empathy played a huge role in your life? Share your stories with us below!
20 Ways You Can Become a Powerful Communicator
Some people seem to naturally know how to effectively communicate in a group setting. They can express themselves clearly and listen attentively without dominating the conversation.
Being a powerful communicator is important for several reasons, including building and maintaining relationships, achieving goals, resolving conflicts, improving productivity, leading and influencing others, advancing in your career, expressing yourself more confidently and authentically, and improving your mental and emotional well-being. Effective communication is an essential life skill that can benefit you in all aspects of your life.
1. Listen actively: Practice active listening by giving your full attention to the speaker and responding to what they are saying.
2. Use “I” statements: Speak from your own perspective and avoid placing blame or making accusations.
3. Avoid assumptions: Don’t make assumptions about what the other person is thinking or feeling.
4. Be clear: Express your thoughts and feelings clearly and concisely by getting to the point and avoid using jargon or overly complex language.
5. Show empathy: Show that you understand and care about the other person’s feelings.
6. Offer valuable insights: When speaking in a group, provide a valuable takeaway or actionable item that people can walk away with.
7. Be an active listener: Listen attentively and respond accordingly, incorporating your points into the conversation.
8. Choose the right time: Pick the most opportune time to speak to ensure that you have the group’s attention and can deliver your message without interruption.
9. Be the unifying voice: Step in and unify the group’s thoughts to calm down the discussion and insert your point effectively.
10. Keep responses concise: Keep responses short and to the point to show respect for others’ time.
11. Avoid unnecessary comments: Avoid commenting on everything and only speak when you have something important to say.
12. Cut the fluff: Avoid being long-winded and get straight to the point.
13. Prepare ahead of time: Sort out your points and practice them before speaking in a group.
14. Smile and be positive: Smile and nod along as others speak, to build a positive relationship and be respected when it’s your turn to speak.
15. Take responsibility: Take responsibility for your own actions and feelings.
16. Ask questions: Ask questions to clarify any confusion or misunderstandings.
17. Avoid interrupting: Allow the other person to finish speaking without interruption.
18. Practice active listening: Repeat what the other person said to ensure you have understood correctly.
19. Use your body language too: Use nonverbal cues such as eye contact, facial expressions, and body language to convey your message and build rapport.
20. Be aware of the tone of your voice: it should be calm and assertive, not aggressive or passive.
By keeping these tips in mind, you can improve your communication skills and become a more powerful communicator, which can help you build better relationships, achieve your goals, and lead a more fulfilling life.
I you want to learn how to become more confident in life then you can join my weekly mentorship calls and 40+ online workshops at AweBliss.com so you can master your life with more success.
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