Empathy can help improve relations at work as well as the workplace environment. Here is how you can make this happen, and how to develop this quality.
Empathy is the ability to understand and identify oneself to the emotions of another person. In practice, it is being able to understand what that other person is feeling without getting carried away by our own emotions and perceptions. Being empathetic will automatically help create authentic relations. This is a quality that most people will seek in the members of a team and in managers.
The benefits of empathy at work
Creating trust and resolving conflicts
When we are not communicating properly, it is difficult to have fluid interactions between members of a team. It is in particular difficult to feel at ease at work if we are not feeling at ease in communicating our emotions: for example, frustration that we were not picked to work on a subject, impatience as to our evolution at work… But if we do not talk about these issues, they can become even more explosive. In order for everyone to express themselves at the right time, it is necessary to create a place where all team members feel safe to do so, without being judged by colleagues or managers.
Feeling understood and heard can also help a team be more engaged in their work. For example, if a manager accepts to adjust a person’s work schedule, this person may feel more motivated at other moments. On the contrary, a manager who feels secure to express his/her emotions or difficulties in front of the team may also be able to count on them thanks to this sincerity. In summary, we are back to the basics: if we feel comfortable and secure at work, there will necessarily have positive consequences as to our productivity!
How to develop empathy?
Empathy is not natural for everybody. Yet, it is possible to develop this quality. Here are a couple of tips you can try to do so.
Get to be a good listener
You can practice empathetic listening: try to really listen to the person talking to you without thinking about what you are about to respond and without interrupting him/her. In this type of active listening, the goal is to refrain from judging, minimizing a situation or finding a solution. Most of the time, the person talking to you (who feels understood) will share more and be in a place where he/she can express what he/she really feels.
Try to understand the needs of another person
What is the need that your interlocutor is seeking to express? Is it a need for clarity, consistency, acknowledgment, sharing, consideration? You can try to guess and actually ask your interlocutor if you are right and what his/her actual need may be. This exercise, inspired by non-violent communication will help both of you find the root of a subject or problem.
Try to let go
The emotions of other people are not yours, do not to forget this. It is not helpful to get overwhelmed by what others are experimenting. Simply try to receive what you hear with kindness, while stepping back from what the situation may generate in you.