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Empathy 2.0 - Upgrading Your Interactions With Others

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Karen Turner


Empathy 2.0 – Upgrading Your Interactions with Others

Originally written for, Find it here.

Based on the number of recent articles in circulation linking empathy with leadership effectiveness, I’m sure you wouldn’t be surprised to hear that empathy is a critical leadership skill. In fact, according to Forbes, it’s the most important skill that a leader can have. Showing empathy, in both professional and personal relationships, not only creates positivity, but also improves both innovation and agility, both in times of crisis and in everyday situations.

But What is Empathy?

Catalyst, Inc. defines empathy as, “…the skill of (1) connecting with others to identify and understand their thoughts, perspectives, and emotions; and (2) demonstrating that understanding with intention, care, and concern.

Further, there are three aspects of empathy:

  1. Cognitive (head/thinking) – “If I were in this situation, what would I be thinking?”
  2. Affective (heart/feeling) – “Being in this situation would make me feel…”
  3. Behavioral (action/doing) – “How can I demonstrate my understanding and desire to learn more?”

Utilizing all three of these aspects will be key, and you will be most successful not just when you personally consider others, but when you follow up that consideration by engaging directly with them, listening to their responses, and actively demonstrating your understanding of their situation.

Empathy 2.0 – Enhancing Your Empathy

But it’s not enough just to practice these three types of empathy. To be effective, you’ll need to go beyond putting yourself in the other person’s position and actively attempt to imagine what it would be like to BE the other person. To feel what THEY are feeling, to think what THEY are thinking.

This is a subtle but critical difference. for example, it's not enough for me to have a deep understanding of design and technology. I need to understand my clients' knowledge and tolerance in these areas and adjust my approach to fit. This allows for a deeper level of collaboration where my clients can quickly communicate their business needs and I can effectively identify how we can meet them.

Now this kind of adjusted thinking is not as difficult as it may seem. In a study by Lund University, children as young as two demonstrated an appreciation that others hold different perspectives than their own. The challenge, however, comes from relating to the other person based on what they are thinking or feeling, even if it's not what you would want in their position.

Putting Enhanced Empathy into Practice

Put this into practice by asking open-ended questions and then listening without judgement. This gives the other person the ability to more freely choose their responses and could result in information you may never have considered.

How to engage the other person:

  1. "Tell me about what's easy and what's hard in your day-today experience."
  2. "Tell me more about what you like about the easy stuff and what you dislike about what's hard."

Questions to ask yourself:

  1. How would I think and feel in that same situation?
  2. How are their thoughts and feelings different from mine?

Empathy 2.0 in action:

  1. How can I take what I have learned about this person and apply it to their situation?
  2. How can I use the difference in our experience or skillsets to help?

Empathy is a critical skill in all relationships, both business and personal. Acting with empathy will help others see you as a kind and caring individual. Acting with enhanced empathy will help others to feel understood and cared for and SEEN.

Smiling woman showing empathy to another
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