By Nico Strydom
Empathy is the ability to share in and understand other people’s emotions.
This means seeing things through somebody else’s eyes and placing oneself in his or her shoes. Empathy is necessary to understand, communicate and develop relationships in the workplace. This means listening, being open-minded and being able to sympathise. Empathy will show your colleagues that you have respect for them and it will make them feel valuable.
Empathy in the workplace can also be an essential part of problem-solving. When you understand somebody else’s problems, there is a potential for cooperation and solving the problems. Empathy also leads to less conflict in a workplace because people understand each other better and this can help to defuse tense situations fast.
Having empathy with others, for instance, makes it easier or a manager to see when something is wrong, for example somebody who is overwrought or is going through a personal crisis that affects his or her work. Through empathy colleagues can also form a support network for each other, which will create a better work environment for everybody.
It is not, however, always easy to show empathy. It takes hard work and requires that one should really listen and be observant. It is not always easy to understand how somebody is feeling or why he behaves in a certain way. That means putting other people before yourself by identifying what they are really saying, by not only listening to their words but also paying attention to their non-verbal communication.
There are various ways of showing empathy in the workplace. Approach problems from somebody else’s point of view. It will help you understand his way of thinking and why he came to a certain decision. By asking a lot of questions you can find out more about a person’s views and by acknowledging others’ feelings, they will more readily share their circumstances.
Empathetic people listen attentively and give the person in front of them their full attention. This enables them to really understand what a person is going through or why he thinks in a certain way. Empathy helps us make better decisions and to better understand colleagues and their actions. It also shows that we are interested in other people and it helps us to be sympathetic towards people who are having a difficult time.
Centre for Creative Leadership: https://www.ccl.org/articles/leading-effectively-articles/empathy-in-the-workplace-a-tool-for-effective-leadership/