Working with Emotional Intelligence (EQ) using a tool that measures eight competencies that impact performance, I am constantly amazed at how low people’s scores are for the EQ competency: Increase Empathy.
A common misperception still exists that EQ is just ‘soft and fluffy stuff’ and empathy is a part of it. To the contrary, emotions lie at the root of existence of all people, and it is people who drive performance.
If we are coming from a “What’s in it for me?” frame, any conversation we have in our environment will be centred around ourselves, which will prevent us connecting with others.
Do you really understand how I feel?
Lots of people think that showing empathy is something you do by telling people what they want to hear. Paying lip service to it with a few well-worn phrases learned in a training course at some time like “I understand how you feel”, “I appreciate that you feel that way”, “I know what you are experiencing”, just don’t cut it anymore.
Cognitive understanding is one part of empathy and it will get you so far by helping you understand it. The key to increasing it, is through emotional empathy which is actually FEELING it. Empathy is about concern for others and what the other person is experiencing and we do know at some level when people do or conversely don’t care. We can hear the “Tell someone who cares” tone of voice over the phone with someone who doesn’t care.
Six Seconds, the largest Emotional Intelligence Network in the world defines empathy as:
“our ability in recognising and appropriately responding (get comfortable with) another’s emotions. It requires perception and vulnerability to feel and show that feeling.”
It shows up as a barrier in conversation because many people are too frightened to go there. It may mean moving into unsafe territory that they may not be able to handle.
The foundation of empathy is respect
The foundation of empathy is based on profound respect and requires opening yourself up. In a recent ABC 7:30 Report interview, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull shared: “Emotional Intelligence is probably the most important asset for – certainly – for anyone in my line of work.” If you live in Australia, you will notice the national conversation the Prime Minister is advocating about us all showing respect for each other.
Showing respect through building our muscle in increasing empathy can improve aspects such as all our relationships, our effectiveness, our wellbeing and our quality of life.
“Empathy is key in understanding others, forming enduring and lasting relationships and it ensures we consider and care for other people (without fixing them). It doesn’t mean low boundaries.” – Six Seconds
3 tips for increasing empathy
- Drop your own agenda within a conversation without detracting in any way from the intention. Observe signs and signals from the emotional world of the other person.
- It requires being concerned for others and what the other person is experiencing. Listen to the other person’s heart. Listen beyond the words.
- It consists of recognising, understanding and responding through emotional feeling WITH another. Empathic action doesn’t necessarily mean using words in a face to face interaction. It is not about problem solving … it is about emotional connection.
Look out for another upcoming post in this EQ Series.
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