Showing Empathy in the Workplace
What is Empathy?
Empathy, in its most basic form, is the ability recognise emotions in others and to understand their perspectives. Empathy, at its best, allows you to use your abilities to help someone else feel better and support them in difficult situations.
For example, you can feel sympathy for someone who is in tears on the street and not know anything about their circumstances. Sympathy may develop into empathy but it doesn’t necessarily work the other way. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
Empathy is a process that involves three stages
1. Cognitive Empathy
Cognitive empathy refers to the ability to see and understand the thoughts or feelings of another person. It does not require emotional engagement from the observer. Cognitive empathy is an ability that can be used to understand and express emotions. Some people may use it for harmful purposes. Cognitive empathy can be used to manipulate emotionally vulnerable people by those who have a Machiavellian personality trait.
Cognitive empathy can be useful for managers to understand how their team members feel and determine the right leadership style. Sales executives can also use it to assess the mood of customers, helping to decide the best tone for a conversation.
2. Emotional Empathy
Emotional empathy refers to the ability to feel the emotions of another person and to be able to understand them on a deeper level. Sometimes, it’s called “affective empathy”, because it can affect or change you. This is more than just knowing how someone feels. It also involves building genuine relationships. For some people, this type of empathy can become overwhelming. Empathic people can get so involved in the pain and problems of others that it can cause emotional distress. This is especially true if the person doesn’t feel capable of resolving the problem.
3. Compassionate Empathy
The most active form is compassionate empathy. This involves caring for someone and sharing their emotions. It also includes taking steps to alleviate the pain.
Imagine, for example, that one of your team members is angry at the way he or she has delivered a critical presentation. Recognising their pain is important and acknowledging their feelings by showing them signs of your emotions yourself is even better. The best thing is to take the time to be there for them, offering support and guidance and helping them get through the situation.
Empathy is essential in the workplace
Stress, deadlines and distractions are just a few of the factors that can prevent your employees from sharing their emotions and understanding with one another. This can hinder employers’ ability to empathise with their employees and, in turn, stop your team from reaching its full potential.
Culture professionals and people who are interested in improving the team’s satisfaction and engagement within their organisations should recognise and promote empathy. This is key to creating healthy work environments.
Four Ways to Show Empathy to Yourself and Improve Your Workplace
- Keep your mind and body calm, both inside and outside.
- Listen as much as you watch.
- Ask yourself what are you feeling.
- Try your intuition.
Empathy is important
Keeping calm and collected in the workplace is a key component of professionalism. Employees pride themselves on being professional at work and try to keep their emotions under wraps. But, if employees are not encouraged to be their authentic selves at work, they lose much of their potential.
Improved relationships between employees and managers are key to improving organisational culture. People are the heart of organisations. They should have the opportunity to create value and be appreciated at work. Recognising one’s team members can make a big difference in building trust and loyalty. Employees desire to feel connected and belong at work. This is possible by treating others with empathy.
Building trust can be as simple as asking your employees how they feel about sudden or major changes within your organisation. To foster empathy and increase performance, encourage your managers and leaders to spend time with their employees. This will help them to be more sensitive and better able to perceive the emotions and feelings of others.
How to develop empathy at work
Empathy is about seeing things from the perspective of another person. You will be able to recognise that behavior that seems overemotional, stubborn, or unreasonable at first glance is simply an emotional reaction based upon previous knowledge and experience.
Pay attention to what someone says to you. To understand what they are trying to convey, use your ears, eyes, and “gut instincts”.
Listen to what key words and phrases they use, especially if they are repeated. Next, think about what they are saying and how it is being said. What is their tone and body language telling us? What are their body language and tone telling you?
At this stage, avoid asking direct questions, disputing facts, and arguing with the information being presented. Be flexible and open to changing the direction of the conversation as the thoughts and feelings of the other person change. The best and easiest way to get to know someone is to ask the right questions.
Eight crucial steps to fostering empathy at work
- Rethink how you listen
- Learn the art of asking questions
- Walk in Your Coworkers’ Shoes
- Avoid Assumptions
- Learn how to prioritise problems
- Do not keep your coworkers at arm’s length
- Be aware that people have feelings
- Recognise that empathy doesn’t happen overnight
Sometimes empathy is confused with sympathy. Even though they sound similar, the words actually mean two different things. Sympathy can be described as feeling sorry for someone’s pain and suffering. Sympathy can be described as a feeling. Sympathy is not a shared perspective, unlike empathy.
Empathy refers to the ability to feel and understand another’s emotions, attitudes, and experience. Empathy is understanding others’ experiences in everyday life. Sometimes being too “hard” in the workplace can make it appear that you are not empathic enough. Learning how to show empathy can help you with internal coworker and external customer relationships. Learn more by calling our staff and we can create a tailored training program to suit your internal needs.