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Working with Empathy

empathy at workWhile it’s general policy to train your team in the technical elements of their job, you may be leaving out a crucial component; empathy. You probably already know empathy is not something that comes naturally to everyone, yet this skill is essential to a modern, conscious business.

Without empathy skills, conflicts can flare up from simple misunderstandings. Lack of empathy can lead to isolation and alienation, divisiveness within a team, highlight diversity issues and cause a brand to make catastrophic errors that alienate the customer base.

I’m pretty sure you can think of more than one social media example of how a brand simply did not understand their user-base and suffered for an unconscious tweet or Facebook post!

The ability to step into the shoes of co-workers and customers allows us to earn trust, loyalty, and understanding. This makes us much better communicators.

If a team is feeling disconnected, it may simply be a lack of empathy for the team, the company goals, or the leadership. When we feel misunderstood we can grow defensive and wary of taking risks or making decisions. We may isolate ourselves or disengage from the company. But, with a culture of empathy, these disagreements can be talked through with reason and compassion, and without a feeling of risk. Productivity blossoms.

In his book,  “Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain” Daniel Siegel shares ways to understand the brain science of the adolescent brain, enabling parents and children to turn conflict into connection. It certainly applies to business relationships too.

All is not lost, empathy  can be learned
Empathy training can dramatically improve the work environment, increasing creativity, collaboration and understanding of the needs of the team and our customers. It can also significantly reduce the need for those endless meetings and conference calls! A team that understands itself well communicates more effectively and efficiently.

Through training, people begin to see beyond their own point of view, recognize emotional triggers that get in the way of clear communication, and develop ways to respond more skillfully. When we learn to see those triggers and manage our emotions around them, we can build solid relationships. We can work with these simple techniques to listen more effectively through active listening, be fully present in conversations, and understand more clearly.

Putting Empathy to Work – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires;

Doing the work
The slides above are from my “Empathy at Work” workshop, geared toward bringing the team together, communicating and relating to each other in a way that fosters trust, and encourages open dialog.   We work through practices that can be brought into any workplace, as well as school and home, and I provide scripts for commonly encountered scenarios to practice. If we do the work we will be rewarded, no matter what role we play in life.