10 Ways To Improve Empathy At Work

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Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash

“Everyone has a secret, deep desire in them to be loved and cared for. These desires are the undercurrents in every relationship. The secret desire is to be seen and to be believed. The desire is to know that you are important to the other person and that your needs are important to them.” — Martin Seligman, David J. Skorton Professor of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania

When it comes to kindness and empathy in the workplace, there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about it. And if your goal is to really change the culture, then you’ve got to change the way you do things — the way you react to situations, and the way you deal with people — both at work and in your personal life. It’s how you express your emotions that matters.

Sure, you can bring more empathy to the workplace by considering the “six heroic emotions” as a guide. The more you practice these emotional values and authentic behaviors, the more they will positively impact your personal life and that of others. But there are other ways to embrace empathy and more effectively display it in the workplace and beyond. Here are 10 of them.

1. Practice The Six Immutable Principles

Honesty and compassion are two of the six principles that you can utilize to express your emotions and interact with others. The more you study these principles, the better you’ll be able to tell what a person is feeling by just watching his or her body language or tone of voice. Think of them as your superpower, an unbiased method to decipher what other people are feeling. You can use them to empathize with employees, customers and other people in your everyday life.

2. Do The Hard Work

Whether you’re managing your own business or managing a team, there will be times when you must work at making a difficult situation better or reach a difficult decision. This is hard work. When a difficult situation arises, think about yourself and whether you’re emotionally equipped to do this work. There is always a price to pay when working in this manner, but the payoff is worth the cost.

3. Model Your Values

When you work through the six heroic emotions and the principles of authenticity, the message is clear: I can’t tell you how to feel, but I can show you how to feel and interact with others. However, to truly affect change in the world, you’ll have to model these actions for others, so they can see how to apply them.

4. Use Empathy To Understand What Is Going On

If you truly want to use empathy in the workplace, you must realize that you’re part of the problem. This means accepting your role in human conflict and taking personal responsibility for it, rather than blaming others. As you become more empathetic, you’ll also begin to understand how it feels to be on the other side. Seeing things from others’ perspectives, especially during difficult situations, can significantly help your outlook and attitude.

5. Stop Being Too Polite

By being too polite, you might as well just stop talking, and that won’t advance you. All it does is allow others to say whatever they want without fear of reprisal, without having to figure out the best way to make a particular point and without having to engage in difficult, uncomfortable dialogue. When someone is confrontational or hostile, it’s time to back off.

6. Take The Risk

When you’re not at your best, it’s time to take some risks. While you’re in the company of people you want to improve, it’s imperative to show you can take personal responsibility and work at improving yourself. You’ll never regret taking the leap when the reward is worth the risk.

7. Celebrate And Give Praise

When someone does something that improves the overall quality of your business, celebrate it and praise the individual. As you speak, celebrate the work you’ve done, celebrate the progress you’ve made and celebrate the people you work with. This will naturally inspire others to give the same type of praise to you. Don’t go overboard with it, but be consistent, and you’ll attract people who do the same.

8. Open Your Mind

You can always understand people’s viewpoints if you allow yourself to open your mind and heart. This is the greatest gift that you can give yourself. By opening your mind, you’ll be able to see where someone else is coming from and hear him or her out. When you become more aware, you will naturally grow and improve as a person and as a business owner.

9. Be A Change Agent

This is a great opportunity to use your business or team to help others improve themselves. Use the principles of authenticity to help transform other people by teaching them your personal principles. When they eventually get the chance to put those principles into practice in their daily lives, you will be there to share in the benefits.

10. Be A Leader

When you embrace all of these qualities, you will become a leader. Being a leader means you’re able to influence people by leading them. When you see how others might think, you become a leader.

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