Today’s ever-changing world of work would benefit from a stronger and more frequent practice of empathy, however, what we witness is a regression. Prejudice, thought traps, and misinterpretations lead to inner blocks and thus inhibit empathy. A dominance of “anti-empathetic” value perceptions is particularly noticeable in top management.
Can you become the company with a culture of empathy and foster a strong sense of belonging?
When it comes to the subject of empathy, the term is subject to constant change. Today, empathy is usually defined as the ability and willingness to perceive and understand the thoughts and feelings of fellow human beings. To break this down further, empathy can fall into three distinct categories; cognitive, emotional, and social.
EMOTIONAL EMPATHY involves experiencing an affective response caused by the condition of another person. It thus refers to the ability to emotionally empathise with how another person is feeling.
COGNITIVE EMPATHY describes the ability to mentally place oneself in the position of fellow human beings in order to understand what is going on in them. The motives, thoughts, and intentions of others can be recognised, but without feeling their feelings.
SOCIAL EMPATHY consists of spontaneously adapting to different character traits of fellow human beings from different age groups, cultures, or social classes. It is a form of empathy that extends from the I to the We. It is about team composition and fostering cohesion. Certain decisions affect different levels of the hierarchy. Managers in particular must be able to accurately assess the impact of decisions on the levels concerned.
Each of these sub-competencies requires interaction; it is impossible to be empathetic on your own. It needs fellow human beings to respond to it. Empathy in this context is therefore not a feeling, but rather the ability to recognise the feelings of others.
In the professional context, understanding the circumstances, desires, and goals of others (cognitive empathy) and perceiving their emotions and points of view (emotional empathy) are the core building blocks of the new empathy competency.
Common misinterpretations and how to manage yourself differently:
1. I MUST FEEL WHAT OTHERS FEEL. Empathy is not synonymous with pity or emotional contagion. You don’t have to react emotionally. Don’t take their position, instead, imagine how someone else feels. Leaders must be able to recognise, respect and deal constructively with emotions.
2. EMPATHY IS FOR WIMPS. Empathy is not indulgence or a lack of assertiveness, it is not a weakness. It is about knowing more about other people. Understand what is going on in others, what their wants and needs are, and use this compassion for more valuable interactions with colleagues, customers and employees.
3. UNDERSTANDING MEANS CONSENTING. If you can rationally understand something, you do not have to approve it. If you focus on someone’s motives, it is easier to understand them. Professionalism is demonstrated by the leader who does not retreat, but deliberately seeks out confrontation without renouncing appreciation, tolerance, and consideration. And without damaging the working atmosphere.
4. I MUST DO WHAT THE OTHER WISHES. Empathy has nothing to do with becoming subordinate to the wishes of others. Understanding is no guarantee of wish fulfilment. After all, the other person does not cater for all your sensitivities. A well-founded “no” is always allowed.
5. EMPATHY CANNOT BE TAUGHT, IT IS INNATE. Yes, you have the basic requirements. But not everyone develops to the same extent. Education plays a role. How much someone has to learn is individual. Empathy is a competence that can be trained and promoted purposefully.
If “the new empathy” has given you some ideas to consider for the road ahead, or you are interested to know more, feel free to contact us personally.
With a passion for people, we at PAWLIK can give you a boost. We help:
THE PAWLIK TEAM