Empathy is the capacity to understand what another person is experiencing from within the other person’s frame of reference. It is a capacity to place oneself in another’s shoes. Here are a few practical tips you might consider to help you build empathy.
Listen – Truly Listen to People
Listen with your ears, eyes and heart. Pay attention to others’s body language, to their tone of voice, to the hidden emotions behind what they are saying to you, and to the context.
Don’t Interrupt People
Don’t dismiss their concerns offhand. Don’t rush to give advice. Don’t change the subject. Allow people their moment.
Tune In to Non-Verbal Communication
This is the way that people often communicate what they think or feel, even when their verbal communication says something quite different.
Practice the “93% Rule”
We know from a famous study by Professor Emeritus, Albert Mehrabian of UCLA, when communicating about feeling and attitudes, words – the things we say – account for only about 7% of the total message that people receive. The other 93% of the message that we communicate when we speak is contained in our tone of voice and body language. It’s important, then, to spend time to understand how we come across when we communicate with others about our feelings and attitudes.
Use People’s Names
Also remember the names of people’s spouse and children so that you can refer to them by name.
Be Fully Present When You Are With People
Don’t check your email, look at your watch or take phone calls when a direct report drops into your office to talk to you. Put yourself in their shoes. How would you feel if your boss did that to you?
Smile at People
Encourage particularly the quiet ones, when they speak up in meetings. A simple thing like an attentive nod can boost people’s confidence.
Give Genuine Recognition and Praise
Pay attention to what people are doing and catch them doing the right things. When you give praise, spend a little effort to make your genuine words memorable: “You are an asset to this team because…”; “This was pure genius”; “I would have missed this if you hadn’t picked it up.”
Take a Personal Interest in People
Show people that you care, and genuine curiosity about their lives. Ask them questions about their hobbies, their challenges, their families, their challenges, their families, their aspirations.
Empathy is an emotional and thinking muscle that becomes stronger the more we use it. Try some of these suggestions and watch the reactions of those you work with. I believe you will notice some positive results.