By definition, empathy is the ability to appreciate and understand the feelings and experiences of another. Evolutionary biologists have shown that as people, we are instinctively social animals who have naturally evolved to be both empathetic and cooperative.
In our personal lives, we all want empathetic allies, people who understand our needs and give us the time of day. However, acknowledging emotions can be seen as problematic when it comes to business etiquette. In cut-throat and often competitive workplace environments, empathy can be misconstrued as a weakness and even a distraction.
We spend so much time in our own heads, that taking time out to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes can be completely enlightening. Imagine a scenario in work where you’ve bumped heads with a colleague. Just for a minute, try putting your own viewpoint to one side and consider the person in front of you. What are they feeling? How might my behaviour be affecting them directly? What’s happened to them throughout their day, and yours, that is causing your current attitudes? Consider, reframe and adjust accordingly.
Empathy doesn’t have to mean choosing sentiment over logic. You can apply empathy to all aspects of your life, and not only reap the results you need but attain them as a more well-rounded and tolerant person simply for having applied empathy along the way.
The most switched on organisations recognise the impact of this, and as a result, have much healthier and happier working environments (not to mention a sky-high staff retention rate!)
Conversely, I’m highlighting the hidden power of empathy and how applying it to everyday situations can be a complete game changer…
Ability to deal with conflict
You can’t change someone’s behaviour, but you can change how you make yourself react to that behaviour. Applying empathy helps you better navigate difficult challenges like conflict and problem-solving. You learn quickly how to better deal with conflict and as a result, it can even help build resilience.
Grow as a person
The ability to practice empathy is an invaluable skill. By reframing negative situations, you allow yourself the brain space to let go of internal animosity and in turn feel better, and lighter, making it easier to process things and move on. The experience then teaches you how to tackle difficult encounters in the future. Whether you like it or not, in the long run, it helps you to grow as a person.
Show compassion towards ourselves
Self-discipline is useful for productivity, but we’re all often a little hard on ourselves when it comes to self-criticism. Whether we’re berating ourselves for how we look, what we’ve consumed, or how we’re behind on deadlines, it’s important to know when to draw the line. Practising empathy on others actually allows us to also apply it to ourselves more easily, and this can work wonders for our, mental health, even making us happier day-to-day.
Deliver an all-round better service
Exercising empathy can make you work smarter and more productively. From a business perspective, it may not seem it but empathy is often the difference between a good service and a great one. Regardless of your profession, clients/patients/customers are inevitably at the heart of what we do. Empathy here enables us to put ourselves in their shoes and consequently produce results that truly resonate with our audiences.
However you look at it, something can always be learned from applying empathy and challenging your own viewpoint. Empathy is more than just a buzzword, it’s a powerful habit we can cultivate and use to transform our everyday lives.