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|Walking in Another's Shoes: The Key to High Impact Success|
|Blog - Personal Excellence|
|Written by Administrator|
|Wednesday, 17 August 2011 20:51|
What would the business world look like without the trait of human empathy?
Let’s face it, as objective, rational and data-driven as we seek to make our organisational systems, the underlying truth is that all organisations are simply structured collections of those pesky subjective, unpredictable non-linear ‘systems’ that we call human beings. Empathy is undoubtedly the most important leadership skill of our times, because it gets us out of our linear machine-minds and right into the thick of the human experience.
Most organisations have no idea just how much the absence of empathy costs them each year but the true price tag is evident in unnecessary litigation, absenteeism, grievances, conflict and interpersonal problems, customer service problems, poor collaboration, draining effort to get things done, hardly any innovation, resistance to change, loss of intellectual capital etc.
Twenty percent of a person's success is estimated to be based on what is normally considered intelligence: the ability to learn, understand and reason. The other 80% is based on the ability to understand ourselves and interact with people. Indeed, empathy is valued currency. It facilitates us to develop bonds of trust, it gives us insights into what others might be feeling or thinking; it benefits us to comprehend how or why others are reacting to cases, it sharpens our “people acumen” and informs our choices.
Without empathy, people tend to go about life without considering how other people feel or what they may be thinking. Each of us has different perspectives. We all experience moods, pain and hurt, joy and sadness. And we are so limited when we only see our own perspective. Without taking a moment to assess another, it is easy to make assumptions and jump to conclusions. People do not feel heard or understood.
What is empathy?
Empathy is the ability to feel another person’s emotions as if they are your own: All of which is very hard to outsource or automate. It involves understanding that people make decisions for their own reasons, not ours. There are always reasons. Customers have reasons, prospects have reasons, employees have reasons, co-workers have reasons.
They might not be our reasons. Empathy signifies: “putting yourself in the other person’s shoes” or “seeing things through someone else’s eyes”. Another expert Daniel Goleman defines it as “Sensing others’ emotions, understanding their perspective, and taking an active interest in their concerns”. Trying to grasp another person’s situation and behaviour is very hard to do. Why? Because You always see it from Your perspective: “If I were him/her, I would do this or that.”
This signifies truly making an effort to stop and think for a moment about the other person’s point of view in order to take off to comprehend where they are coming from. So you know what they are feeling, or at least you suspect you know what they are experiencing, and you communicate that to elicit further discussion or clarification.
What is the difference between sympathy and empathy?
Many erroneously believe that the terms sympathy and empathy are synonymous. Although both words have to do with feelings, they do express different grades of feelings. Sympathy is literally “feeling with” - compassion for or commiseration with another person. Empathy, by contrast, is literally “feeling into” - the ability to project one's personality into another person and more fully understand that person (think of an "empath").
Sympathy derives from Latin and Greek words meaning “having a fellow feeling”. The term empathy originated in psychology (translation of a German term, c. 1903) and has now come to mean the ability to imagine or project oneself into another person's position and experience all the sensations involved in that position. You feel empathy when you've "been there", and sympathy when you haven't. In many ways, being empathic is a gift, because it allows you to fully experience, understand and support others. It is an aptitude that is well-worth cultivating.
Can empathy be learned?
We all know some people who are naturally and consistently empathetic – these are the people who can simply forge positive connections with others. They are people who use empathy to engender trust and create bonds. Although empathy doesn’t come naturally to some of us, we can create this aptitude. Empathy is like an emotion muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets.
If there was ever a time for empathy, perhaps the time is now. Understanding and relating to others in a manner that instills trust is critical for success! Better working teams, improved communication, stronger networks, promotion of trust and respect, real understanding of stakeholder and customer needs will lead to a sane business management and will most likely improve the financial results of your organisation. Says Dev Patnaik, author of “Wired to Care:
How Companies Prosper When They Create Widespread Empathy: “The best organisations (and the ones that survive economic tsunamis), are those with empathetic cultures and managers who are able to step outside themselves and walk in someone else’s shoes”.
In the end, empathy is a choice. We have to choose to improve, to care, to get out of our own way and to bridge the gaps between us - generations, cultures, race, religions, socioeconomics, etc. Empathy for “other people” is the one commodity the world is lacking more than oil.
Copyright 2007 by Karl SmithThis article may be copied or republished with the following credit: