Employees at all levels are giving high priority to the issue of respect in the workplace. As a result, "emotional intelligence" and empathy at work have catapulted to importance in the management/leadership realm. And, for good reason: mis-reading or totally missing someone else's "stuff" can create sticky situations and bad blood. On the other hand, the ability to pick up on cues and accurately follow through is a hallmark of relation-building and something that we all value from managers and co-workers. For sales people, it can mean the difference between no client or a huge bonus.
Empathy: Get Some
Look, I know that empathy is one of those "soft skill" things. Fine. But absent any degree of it, you'll spend your life being an individual contributor with yourself as the only customer. That's just not a good income-generating plan.
What is empathy?
Empathy is the ability to read or sense someone else's responses by imagining yourself in his or her place.
Some folks are born with a predisposition toward, and a sensitivity to, the feelings of other people. They often develop their intuition in this area as they mature. Even so, they also learn to ask questions along the way to clarify issues and confirm (or disaffirm) their intuition.
Note: Part of being empathetic is not telling someone else exactly how they are feeling without checking it out first.How to Boost Your Empathy Quotient
When you're watching or listening to someone:
- Use your imagination and similar past situations to give you clues about what the other person is feeling and experiencing.
- Imagine that you are the other person. What might your needs be?
When people talk with you about what's on their minds it's common to hear them talk around the topic instead of getting to the heart of the matter. (Often, they don't know the heart of the matter; they just know how they are feeling).
So, here are Four Questions that will make you genuinely helpful:
- "Can you explain three things that really concern you about this issue?"
- "If you had the choice, what would you most like to have happen now?
- "What do you think is the single thing that would help you most?"
- "What are some other aspects of this that are also worrying you?"
Once you've picked up some solid information, summarize what you think you've understood. Then, pause and ask: "What do you think would be most useful to do next?"
Most people actually do think of a next step.
Remember this: Employees and colleagues aren't looking for you to know answers. They're looking for someone to ask good questions and listen in ways that help clarify the situation and alternatives.
That's the kind of respect that leads to solid relationships and professional growth.