Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. It involves being able to recognize and appreciate the perspective of others and to respond with appropriate emotion and behavior. This skill is an essential component of emotional intelligence that helps build and maintain healthy relationships with others.
According to Gill and colleagues (2018), the concept of empathy describes a person’s ability to “understand the feelings transmitted through verbal and nonverbal messages, to provide emotional support to people when needed, and to understand the links between others’ emotions and behavior”. Empathy refers to the ability to reach into another person’s situation to appreciate what they may be thinking and feeling.
Empathy is an important quality to have in many areas of life. When we are able to show empathy towards others, we can create a sense of connection with them. When we show empathy towards our coworkers, we cultivate a more positive and supportive work environment. Empathy can help to improve communication and build trust among team members, leading to increased collaboration and productivity. In addition, displaying empathy towards colleagues can help create a sense of mutual respect and understanding, leading to more positive relationships.
// Better job performance. Research by the Center of Creative Leadership (2016) analyzed data from 6,731 managers from 38 countries. The results showed that empathy is positively related to job performance.
// Improved communication: Empathy can help to improve communication by creating a sense of understanding and connection between team members. There are four components to the Nonviolent Communication (NVC) model developed by Marshall Rosenberg, PhD.: observation, needs, requests, and feelings. The non-violent communication process can guide you to express how you are or be used to receive how another person is.
// Enhanced collaboration: When team members are able to show empathy towards one another, it can lead to increased teamwork.
// Increased psychological safety and trust: Showing empathy towards others can help to build trust and create a sense of mutual respect. An interpersonal climate of safety, paired with other critical factors, like strategy, vision, goals, supportive leadership, and so on, facilitates learning and performance. Teams with high levels of interpersonal trust and respect are more likely to participate in quality improvement initiatives.
// Greater job satisfaction: Employees who feel understood and supported by their coworkers may experience increased job satisfaction.
🌱 Pay attention to others: Show that you are listening and paying undivided attention to what others say and feel. Familiarity and face-to-face communication between team members facilitate psychological safety.
🌱 Practice active listening: This involves listening carefully to what others say without interrupting or jumping to conclusions. Also, you can choose to reflect on what you hear to show that you understand. Examples of reflection may be “I hear that you feel anxious about that presentation,” “I understand that you feel stressed about that meeting?” etc.
🌱 Avoid judgment: Try to be open-minded and non-judgmental when listening to others. Regular meditation practice fosters non-judgemental acceptance.
🌱 Try to see things from others’ perspectives: Try to understand where others are coming from and how they might be feeling.
🌱 Use body language: Use nonverbal cues such as eye contact and nodding to show that you are engaged and interested in what others are saying. According to C. K. Goman Ph.D., nonverbal communication that expresses warmth includes open body postures, palm-up hand gestures, a “full front” body orientation, positive eye contact, synchronized movements, head nods, head tilts, and smiles.
🌱 Offer support: Offer emotional and practical support to those who may be struggling. Let others know that their feelings are valid and offer words of encouragement. If you feel that the person trusts you offer professional resources such as information on emotional support services or counseling options.
By showing empathy, you can create a more positive and supportive work culture and build stronger, emotionally safe relationships with your colleagues. A positive work environment benefits both the individual and the organization by helping to alleviate turnover intentions and fostering job satisfaction.