What is empathy?
Being empathetic means, being able to understand the feeling of others. It means you put yourself in another person’s shoes, you feel what they feel, you see what they see. You understand their story and why they do what they do. Everything happens for a reason. So empathy means, being patient to discover more about the other person and what led them to this moment in their life.
It’s easy to get angry because your interlocutor got angry. This is what we are used to doing, automatically, without thinking. We react. But if we just get a moment, to understand that their anger might come from some kind of fear things can get better. So as a leader, when you reassure the angry person in front of you that he is safe, it can calm him down.
I remember getting into a tough conversation with a colleague in my past job when I was an employee. She said something to me that came out of nowhere, but when we sat down with the manager and another colleague to speak about the issue, I stayed calm, I wanted to understand her point of view. Very quickly I understood that she was afraid that someone will tell her that the job was not well done.
My goal in that conversation was not to win, it was to understand, to listen to be empathetic, to put myself in her shoes… Very quickly, we resolved the issue, I felt that she was a bit hurt for some reason so I gave her a kiss on the cheek. Honestly, she didn’t expect that. After work, I received an sms on my phone, it was her, she said: “you are one of the best colleagues I have ever had, thank you”.
Being empathetic doesn’t mean you have to agree with others, it doesn’t mean to let down your principles, your perspective, and your ideas. It simply means, it simply means that you are willing to understand others and appreciate them. You accept the differences with an open mind. You know that there’s no right or wrong, it’s just a matter of perspective.
Why is it important for you as a future leader?
At the core, leadership is about others. You can’t be a leader for yourself only. Every leader has subordinates, people who believe in what the leader believes, people who trust the leader, they believe that with the leader they are going to achieve their dreams and desires.
So leadership is about others, hence it’s important to understand and feel who you are going to lead. This is why empathy is very important in leadership. You are able to put yourself in the place of your future employees, you understand their pains and challenges, you understand their hopes and dreams. You do everything you can to get your people out of difficulties so they live a better life.
People who follow you as a leader need to be inspired. You can only inspire them by knowing exactly what inspires them. The best way to do it is to put yourself in their shoes and be empathetic. Ask yourself, if I was in the place of my employee, what would inspire me to get to work on Monday morning? What would inspire me to create, build, and innovate? What would inspire me to overcome the challenges and give my best?
Very quickly you will start getting new ideas, that will empower you as well as your people.
Empathy creates bonds. I remember going through a difficult conversation with my roommate, he wanted something to be his way, I felt a bit restricted, to be honest, I value freedom a lot (this is why I quit my 9 to 5 corporate job by the way). But one thing made the conversation between me and my roommate go smoother is the fact that he was empathetic and admitted that he put a restriction on me.
I felt that he understood what I am feeling at that moment, so all the tension went away and we could move forward that day with ease.
But how can you be more empathetic?
Good question. My answer is to start by listening. Not hearing, listening. You give your interlocutor your full attention, you don’t react whenever a feeling urges you to do, or even worse, wherever the ego wants you to defend it.
When you listen actively, there is a win-win. Your interlocutor feels that he is important, his perspective matters, and you win also because you develop an important skill in communication that will enable you to understand the other person and to gain new insight.
So when someone is speaking with you the next time, listen to them, give them your full attention, forget about the smartphone and social media for a moment. You will see the benefits of it very quickly, I promise you.
Finally, I would say that empathy will help you understand the other person before judging. We all know that making assumptions about others will not lead to a great relationship. On the other hand, taking the time to listen to them, understand them, feel what they are feeling, know the reason behind their actions/reactions, understand their pains and problems, their dreams and desires, will make you an empathetic leader, a better person.
Thank you for reading,
I hope you enjoyed this blog post,
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Until next time, take care.