Hello all. I’ll tell you now this blog post is going to be somewhat non-traditional in the sense of I’m not going to talk about a design topic. But instead, I’m going to talk about something that I’ve been thinking a lot about. Something that I’ve learned a lot more about as of recently. Something I’m seeing and hearing more discussed in mainstream social media, and media in general. And something I’m noticing is not always being practiced in real life and is an important piece of our everyday lives. Empathy.
Now let me start out by saying I’m not perfect at practicing this, but I do try harder now to slow down and make the effort to engage in this process. But why you ask? Why is this important? And how in the world does practicing empathy have any application to a blog for work? Hopefully I’ll be able to enlighten you. And if not, well, sorry for your loss of 5 minutes.
I recently went thought something that was extremely difficult and personal to me, and made me judge myself, my choices, cause and effect and my character. To make matters worse, it recycled a previous event and memory-coupled with a few other stressful items, well, you might imagine how emotionally things spiraled from there. I’m politely choosing not to discuss the events of either situation because, well, it’s mine to choose to tell. And the point of this being brought up isn’t the story itself, it’s the reactivity of others and myself. This recent event made something very clear to me. The Beatles have it right. All you need is love. And with love, comes empathy. No judgement. No unsolicited advice. No sympathy. Just someone willing to listen and putting personal feelings aside, have the ability to put themselves in your shoes for just a moment and gain insight to what the other person is going through and be truly able to say, “I can imagine you are having a rough time,” or, “I’ve been there too. You’re not alone.”
So am I looking for people to feel sorry for me? Absolutely not. In fact, that typically is the most misunderstood thing in regard to practicing empathy. Sympathy is the ability to feel compassion towards others. Empathy goes a step beyond that. Being an “empath” means you not only recognize the emotions of others, but you feel them as if they were your own.*
So what IS empathy and how does it apply in the workplace? Brenee Brown talk about empathy in terms of 4 Qualities of Empathy**:
- Perspective taking (taking the perspective of the other person)
- Staying out of judgement
- Recognizing emotion in other people
- Communicating emotion in other people
Empathy is feeling with people.
It applies all the time. It’s about the people you interact with daily, weekly, monthly. How many times have you passed judgement on a co-worker you felt wasn’t pulling their weight? Or made an assumption about them because their door was closed all day? Have you ever stopped and got curious – “I wonder what’s going on with Cheryl?” Better yet, have you ever opened yourself up enough to ask?
Sometimes letting someone know they are not alone is the greatest gift you can give them. In fact, honing your empathetic skills can greatly improve relationships with everyone around you. It will help you navigate conflicts with greater ease as well as teach you how to be more motivational. Seeing things from another person’s perspective will help you gain insight and be less effected by negativity.
You will recall earlier I said you “might” imagine. I said that intentionally. Hopefully next time you encounter a friend, family member, or co-worker having a difficult time you will practice having empathy – you will make a world of difference in that moment.