Empathy. This simple word is full of potential and has the ability to move us towards our core purpose as humans. Regardless of race, ethnicity, cultural or religious backgrounds, at our core, we all have one desire, to belong. Our lives are a constant journey to find significance and security not in things, but in others. But for many the word “empathy” is greatly misunderstood. While empathy is a right brain activity, it is far from being a touchy-feely topic. In order for leaders and business owners to succeed in the “connection economy,” developing empathy skills is essential.
As humans, we connect with each other in a number of ways and at different levels. The deepest being emotional. Emotions are the most powerful force in the universe. But emotions were never meant to be bottled up and pushed down. They were meant to be shared and experienced. The issues for much of the West comes from a worldview that the display of emotion is a sign of weakness. As a result, we have pushed our true selves ever inward and disconnected ourselves from our core desire. In order to connect with those we love, work with, and service we must learn how to embrace our own and others' emotions.
This means using your ears, eyes, and heart. Pay attention to their body language, the tone of their voice, to the hidden emotions behind what they are saying to you, and to the context. Often times what we say and what we mean are very different things. Another key to listening is not interrupting. Even if you don’t agree, don't dismiss their concerns offhand. Never rush to give advice. Don't change the subject. Allow the person to whom you are listening to have their moment.
Have you ever been given a half-hearted “thank you”? You probably would have rather they never said anything. Pay attention to what people in your business are doing. Catch them doing the right things. Then, when you recognize them, take the time to make your words genuine and memorable. Empathy is a skill. The right supramarginal gyrus is an emotional and thinking “muscle" in the brain that becomes stronger the more we use it.
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