Improving Empathy

Improving Empathy

Improving Empathy 1920 1080 The Conscious Professional

“Opinion is really the lowest form of human knowledge. It requires no accountability, no understanding. The highest form of knowledge… is empathy, for it requires us to suspend our egos and live in another’s world. It requires profound purpose larger than the self kind of understanding.” – Bill Bullard

Empathy is arguably still quite low on the list of skills for a conscious and resilient professionals. However, being in tune with the emotions and experiences of others is of enormous value when nurturing professional relationships. Empathy helps us to tap into the viewpoints of others, and to use that skill to come to mindful and mutually beneficial resolutions.

1. Consider More Than What Someone is Saying Verbally

Look for other forms of communication. This is especially important with vulnerable people, or with people you do not know so well. What does their body language say? Do they seem to feel comfortable talking to you? If they don’t appear to be so, is there something you can do to help? Offering a drink or a seat, for example. Try and notice the whole person, not just the content of their words.

2. Out of Your Shoes, Into Thiers

Sometimes one of the most difficult things about empathy is not agreeing fully with the views or decisions of the other person. Sometimes your opposition is unavoidable, but in many cases, putting yourself in their shoes helps you to understand their plight a little better. Always try your best to see where they are coming from.

3. Really Listening

Often we hear but don’t listen. One of the most important things when demonstrating conscious empathy is to listen really well. This means to listen without letting your mind wander to what you feel your response should be. How often do we drift off half way through somebody else’s sentence because we are now waiting for an opportunity to jump in with our opinions?

Also, when you listen with intent, you are showing the other person that you are fully investing your attention with them. And when you reply, do not be afraid of taking a moment to gather your thoughts in order to respond carefully and usefully.

4. Out Others at Ease

Invite the other person in. This can be done through the simplest of gestures; a smile. A smile says, ‘you are safe’, ‘I am comfortable with this situation’ and ‘you can trust me’. Do not underestimate the power of a smile and an open face. Appearing to be relaxed and understanding is also a simple way to gain trust and offer a safe space for the other person to get something off their chest, without judgement.

5. Try Not to Fix

If someone needs to offload on you, very often, that is all that they need. Do not feel that you must always have the answer for them, because you may not have it. Indeed, always needing to fix things may lead to you giving poor advice. Just be there for them without feeling the need to close the case!

6. Avoid Unsolicited Advice

If somebody comes to you asking for guidance, it is easy to simplify your answer; ‘why don’t you just do this?’ It is important, when advising with empathy, not to judge and not to deal in absolutes. To be empathetic we can sympathise with others, and tell them what we think might be a helpful path. But the most empowering and useful path to set them on is one that they come to themselves. Do your best to guide them to a place where they find the answers based on their own decision-making and their unique experience.

By Chris Thomson


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