Good old Google defines it as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” When we understand, and more importantly, share the feelings of other people, whether they are coworkers, family members or friends, we’re able to relate to one another on a very basic human level. This in turn creates connection and a sense of community. To be empathetic is to be able to recognize feelings in others, and to be able to ‘put yourself’ in their shoes.
As a leader, having an empathetic heart helps you to understand those around you, and to see their needs and concerns. When you put aside your viewpoint, and try to view things from their perspective, you’re likely to find new solutions to problems, than if you had remained steadfast in your opinions. You’ll want to validate the other person’s feelings, while being empathetic, and adjust your attitude to feel what they are feeling.
As a family member, having an empathetic heart allows you to understand the viewpoints of those in your family. You’ll be better able to avoid conflict and to realize why others have the emotions and opinions they do. Being empathetic means learning to truly listen to others, and not just notice what they are saying, but how they are saying it. Tone, along with unspoken cues such as body language, allow you to understand and empathize with them on a deeper level.
If you’re not naturally empathetic, then you can certainly cultivate this skill. If you’re unsure where to start with this, here are some more tips for an empathic conversation:
- Pay attention, to the words and the body language being used.
- Listen carefully, and take note of key words being used often.
- Respond and validate the concerns being expressed.
- Be flexible – prepare to change attitude or opinions as new information is presented.
- Look for cues that you’re getting it right.
The results of practicing empathy are plentiful. You will better understand the needs of the people around you, you will better understand the unspoken communication that happens between two or more people, and you’ll have less trouble dealing with conflict. Furthermore, studies show that those who are more empathetic are more apt to convince others of their point of view, are better at motivating others, and experience a more full range of emotions throughout life.
Having an empathetic heart allows you to better connect with other humans, whether it be coworkers, customers, family or friends. This allows you to be a better leader, a better friend, and a happier family member.