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Empathy is a trait we bring forth when we try to see the world through another person’s eyes, or when we try to understand what a person is going through by envisioning ourselves in their position. Empathy isn’t the same thing as sympathy, it’s not the same thing as kindness, and it’s not just about picking up on social cues or reading someone’s intentions. Empathy is a trait practiced by those who wish to help and heal, those who wish to harm and manipulate, and by those who wish to make a sale, win an argument, or gain an advantage during a negotiation. Empathy isn’t a strictly moral or immoral personal quality. And while people may have an easier or harder time applying their empathy than others do, we all have the ability to be empathetic and to engage this trait when we really try.

Here are a few ways empathy can help you reach your goals and get things done when you’re working to become an effective manager.

Empathy helps you work WITH your employees, not for them or against them.

A good manager doesn’t see her employees as threats or resources to be exploited; she sees them as people, just like herself. She recognizes she’ll need to align her goals with theirs in order to push them forward, motivate, teach, scold or redirect them. When she empathizes with an employee, she can better understand what activates the person’s fears, ambition, curiosity or drive, and she can determine how that knowledge can be used to help both the company and the employee get what they want.

Empathy builds loyalty.

When you make an effort to see the world through someone else’s eyes, you earn their respect, even if some of your assumptions and conclusions aren’t perfectly accurate. It’s the fact that you’re trying, and the effort you’re applying, that demonstrates respect for the person and respect for your relationship. When you give that respect, you tend to receive the person’s respect in return.

Empathy solves otherwise impossible puzzles.

Ninety percent of the problems we encounter with other people (at home, on the job, and in the street) start with a sense of confusion. Why is the person behaving in this strange way, we might ask ourselves?  Why is he trying to thwart the efforts of the team? Why is she getting angry or upset? Why doesn’t he do what others want him to do? Why is she always late for meetings? Empathy clears the fog away and presents us with answer. Once we have this information, we can talk to the person honestly and move forward together.

Build your workplace culture on a foundation of respect for, and genuine interest in, the experiences and motivations of those around you. To learn more, contact the management team at Extension!

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