7 Ways to Enhance Your Workplace Empathy
It may come as no surprise that low levels of empathy can cause problems in the workplace – a lack of empathy can distance you from your colleagues and disrupt a much-needed sense of office harmony. But even more than that, it can instil bad working habits that stick with you throughout your career.
According to a 2018 State of Workplace Empathy Study by Businessolver, 96% of employees believed it was important for their employers to demonstrate empathy. This means people care about the way they interact with one another in a work environment, especially when it comes to relationships with management.
So, does this mean you should invest more time in developing your own workplace empathy? And how can you go about changing your working habits to be more considerate of your coworkers and your clients? Let’s take a look.
What is empathy?
To put it simply, ‘empathy’ is the act of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes to better understand their motivations. It means that you are using your own experiences to relate to what others may be feeling. This, in turn, ensures that you handle every situation with sensitivity. This skill helps you deal with relationships both in your personal and professional life. Though you may not have a natural inclination towards empathy, it can be cultivated in the following ways:
1. Learn to listen
Unless you listen carefully to a person’s situation, you won’t be able to emotionally support and empathise with them. Remember, listening is more than just hearing. It means avoiding unnecessary interruptions and not letting preconceived thoughts or scepticisms screw the way you handle the situation. Listen to them mindfully and focus on their situation. When you keep their feelings in mind, you will be able to react accordingly.
2. Be approachable
Nobody wants to deal with the rude or difficult colleague. It’s important to maintain an approachable vibe, that doesn’t mean you have to go out of your way to be friends with everyone in your office. But don’t be the sort of worker other people are afraid to ask for help. It does not matter if you are a leader of a group or just a part of it – you are always capable of being friendly and being a productive part of the team.
3. Consider all perspectives
Perspective is all about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. Next time someone approaches you with a problem or wants to share an experience, try to put yourself in their mindset – understand why they feel this way and what outside factors may have contributed. When you have a better picture of what’s bothering them, you’ll be able to come up with better solutions.
4. Cultivate curiosity
People with higher levels of empathy often have more curiosity, especially when it comes to interacting with strangers. When you step out of your comfort zone and interact with people who are different from your core group, you’ll discover new opinions, ideas and lifestyles. This, in turn, opens you up to new thought processes and shatters stereotypes that you’ve nurtured for years.
5. Remember – It’s not about what you say, but how you say it
The focus here is not on your verbal communications, but rather your non-verbal communication and actions, which are crucial in letting others form an opinion about you. Some of the ways in which you can display your feelings through non-verbal communications include eye contact, expressions and body language.
6. Get to know yourself better
How much do you really know yourself? When a trivial situation arises, we often fail to be mindful because we haven’t stopped to consider how we would act in that situation. Think about what’s important to you and what values you hold. The more we express ourselves, the more empathetic we can be towards others!
7. Acknowledge others
It is very important to acknowledge another person when he/she is speaking because it gives a clear indication that you are paying attention to what is being said. Phrases such as ‘I see’, ‘I understand’, etc., can be used to convey your acknowledgement. But remember to only use it if you’re really listening to them. Otherwise, you might be in a fix if they ask for some honest solution from you!
It’s time to shake off those bad habits
In order to become a more empathetic worker, you need to be aware of all the unwanted traits and behavioural patterns that can cause any sort of hindrance. Some of them include – complaining, negativity, dwelling in the past, selfishness and being overly critical.
While it might seem that empathy is a character trait that’s innate in every human being, that’s not always the case. One of the best ways to inculcate the goodness of empathy is to engage with some charitable work or volunteer for a meaningful cause and work with others for something bigger and better. Take a look at what volunteer opportunities are available today.
Riyanka Roy is an ordinary girl with some extraordinary dreams. She loves to believe in the miracles of destiny and wants to travel all over the world, spend time with the natives, binge on local food and absorb their culture. Life is like a book and whatever we do adds more chapters to it. She enjoys writing about whatever piques her interest, for each and every bit helps in making the chapters more and more colourful. She believes in volunteering for those who need help and has lived in rural India for quite some time.