Many people in the business world don’t discuss empathy – the general ability to understand, appreciate and relate to what other people are experiencing or feeling. It is a trait that all successful business people should strive to develop and possess.
Fostering Trust and Supporting Your Network
Exhibiting empathy in your business dealings helps reduce conflict in difficult situations. Empathy helps people feel connected and allows them to work through the problem or crisis you are experiencing together. Over time, these elements foster feelings of trust.
Trust is a necessary ingredient to build good relationships. Without it, people are reluctant to share their minds and hearts. Without trust you will not be able to successfully build a business network. Businesses need strong networks because it helps you access the right people and resources at the right price at the right time.
Driving awareness, communication and out-of-the-box thinking
The advantages of empathy in your workplace don’t end with trust. Approaching others with empathy makes it easier to identify where and when they may need some help. Empathy gives you a better understanding of others’ situations. This comes back to the issue of trust, or a deeper level of understanding of others. In a safe and trusting environment, people are not as scared of taking responsibility for problems. They’re more willing to go out on a limb, try new things and communicate in a more open and honest fashion.
Stability is everything
One of the benefits of having an open, trusting work environment built on empathy is employees actually want to work for you. They become your best word-of-mouth advertisers and will put more effort into what they do to drive the success of your business.. They feel more satisfied with their job and are less likely to be late, call in sick or look for other positions. The combination of advocacy, increased drive, and decreased staff turnover drive the stability of your business.
A challenging but navigable path to developing empathy
Leaders in business are increasingly starting to recognize the difference that empathy can impart on their company. It begs the question, why isn’t everyone in business putting a higher priority on this valuable trait? The answer is complex. Firstly, business has been pushing a cutthroat industry image for decades. Business leaders have bought into the concept that, in order to be the best, they have to look out for number 1 or be guided by the financial outcomes.
Being empathetic turns this concept on its head. It requires the realization that the achievement of goals happens more easily when you make the people supporting your business your main priority.
Secondly, employees don’t respond well to a cookie-cutter approach. They have a wide range of experiences, personalities, motivations and even medical issues that affect how comfortable and competent they are with different social and work tasks. In a cutthroat environment, employees are more likely to show you what they think you want to see. Unraveling the reality of your workplace takes time and with more employees expected to do more with less it’s a tussle to carve out space in the day for relationship building.
Overcoming these significant barriers to developing empathy starts with simple observation. Walking around the office, talking one-on-one, getting feedback in various ways and watching for body or vocal cues are all good ways to become more attuned with those around you.
To develop empathy, it’s a great idea to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Imagine how you would feel in their situation. Ask yourself if what they are requesting is reasonable and then ask yourself what you’d want someone to do for you under the same circumstances. During conversation, you can draw on these experiences to convey that you really do get it. This common ground will allow your interaction to result in a supportive outcome.
Educating yourself is another great step toward empathy. Much of what people notice, believe and feel comes from what they know. The more you know about other practices, cultures, religions and other elements, the better chance you have of being able to relate to or understand our people.
Empathy is a precious but often overlooked asset in any business. It has the potential to provide a significant boost in sales as well as a competitive advantage. Best of all, it will help you connect more effectively with your co-workers, bosses, employees and clients . The barriers to developing empathy in the workplace are not simple but you can overcome them with conscious effort. Good observations, putting yourself in other’s shoes and actively learning are all great steps to take.
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