I recently had an engaging conversation with my cousin in New York and she was telling me about a shift in her business focus from plain old digital marketing and branding to empathy in the workplace. After we hung up I continued to think about the topic.
I realized that even good managers and teachers often look at a struggling person with the approach of: “I’ll find out what’s wrong with them, so I can pinpoint the problem and FIX it.”
I must admit that years ago when I was a corporate manager I had the same mentality. It took me a while to figure out that if I truly listen to my staff without judgment, with pure curiosity, and most crucially without the need to FIX them, then something far more valuable took place and that is CONNECTION.
When someone truly feels that they have been heard and valued, it builds trust and a strong sense of common experience that is personal and vulnerable in a healthy way. Our ability to effectively engage soars when we experience a connection at this level. Creating the opportunity for connection in a supportive space works in every environment where people interact.
It is true we do not always have time in our busy days to create such opportunities, but once we do that, it changes the relationship forever.
It sometimes takes only a few minutes to create a heart to heart connection when I am using the approach of:
Building empathy in the workplace or school is about creating that deeper emotional connection of “I hear you, I understand where you are coming from.”
It does not mean that I agree with you or your actions, but the simple act of seeing how you arrived where you are through the scope of your beliefs, fears, experiences shapes an empathetic viewpoint.
Listen without judgment of how “I would have said this or done that” from your own personality or background.
Empathy is achieved when you “walk in their shoes”, not with your own personality and attitudes, but simply accepting their story and event as is, without judgment or need to give advice.
A person feels understood and listened to when those glasses of seeing the world through my own personality simply come off and I accept people for who they are, with their own brilliance, mistakes, shortcomings. At that moment I am making the space for a genuine connection with another person, and giving them the room to be themselves without the need to prove something either way.
I am sure you can recall that mentor/teacher/boss that took the time to listen to you, to SEE you for who you are even if you were not there yet. They saw your real potential even before you were clear about it yourself. That person that connected with you in a deeper way inspired you and moved you deep inside and made a difference in your life for the better.
It sometimes feels like these moments can only be formed in an organic and spontaneous way that is hard to replicate or plan, which makes them few and far between in our daily interactions. But if you adopt this approach you can create those moments often and have a broader impact on all individuals that surround you whether it’s your students, workers, co-workers, or even your boss.
Would you like to create space for a meaningful connection with others?
Would you like to be that inspiration for people around you?