Have you ever experienced a leader who wasn’t able to connect with their team? What were they lacking? In a word, empathy.
Empathy is the ability to enter into another person's experience and connect with it in such a way that you actually experience to some degree what the other person is experiencing. It is as if you are that other person, at least for a moment. Empathy comes from the Greek word meaning “in” and “feeling.” It is as if you are “in the feeling” of the other.
Empathy requires a few character components.
First, there is the ability to feel and be what is referred to as softhearted. If people are cut off from their emotions to begin with, then they usually have little ability to feel what someone else is feeling. To be an empathetic person means that you have to overcome character detachment. It means that first of all, you are not detached from your own emotions. It means that you are truly in touch with your real feelings capacities. People who are out of touch with their own feelings are limited in their ability to empathize with others.
Second, it means that you have good boundaries. That means that when you feel what someone else is feeling, you also realize that it is their experience and not yours. Boundaries are the component of character whereby we realize our separateness from another person. People who lose themselves in what another person is feeling are usually not helpful. They over identify and then do goofy things. But, conversely, if their boundaries are too strong and they can't reach over the wall and empathize, then connection is lost. It is a balance.
Third, it is the ability to listen in a way that communicates understanding. When we listen, we hear.. And it may be that we understand. But if we cannot communicate our listening in a way that lets other people know we have truly understood, empathy has not occurred. There is no connection. True listening and understanding occurs only when the other person understands that you understand
These three things only happen when your character is connecting enough to get out of your own experience and into the experience of the other. To do that requires a makeup that is not detached, or self-focused.
They talk...you experience them...you share what you have heard and experienced about their experience...then they experience you have as having heard them. They then know you are “with them.”
When it is communicated to them like that, then not only did you hear and understand, but the other person understands that you understand, and the connection has occurred. It does not occur, and the other person's heart has not joined you, until that loop has happened. That takes an open and caring heart on your part.
Are you using empathy with your team?Learn how to give empathy to help your team trust and believe in you with Henry's podcast. Listen and learn TODAY!