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Empathy in the workplace

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While it’s general policy to train your team in the technical elements of their job, you may be leaving out a crucial component; empathy. You probably already know empathy is not something that comes naturally to everyone, yet this skill is essential to a modern, conscious business.

Without empathy skills, conflicts can take fire from simple misunderstandings. It can lead to isolation and alienation, divisiveness within a team, diversity issues and cause a brand to make catastrophic errors that alienate the customer base.

I’m pretty sure you can think of more than one social media example of how a brand simply did not understand their user base and suffered for a tweet that reflected either conscious or unconscious bias.

The ability to step into the shoes of co-workers, customers and potential customers allows us to earn trust, loyalty and understanding. This in turn makes us much better communicators.

If a team is feeling divisive, it may simply be a lack of understanding of each other’s position. When we feel misunderstood we can grow defensive and wary of taking risks or making decisions. But, if we develop a culture of empathy, these disagreements can be talked through with reason and compassion, and without a feeling of risk.

In his book-Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain- Dan Siegel shares ways to understand the brain science of the adolescent brian, enabling parents and children to turn conflict into connection. It certainly applies to business relationships too.

All is not lost, empathy can be learned
Empathy training can dramatically improve the work environment, increasing creativity, collaboration and understanding of the needs of the team and our customers. It can also dramatically reduce the need for those endless meetings and conference calls!

Through training, people begin to see beyond their own point of view, recognize emotional triggers that get in the way of clear communication, and develop ways to respond more skillfully. They can learn simple techniques to listen more effectively through active listening, being fully present in conversations.

Doing the work

The slides embedded below are from my “Empathy at Work” workshop, geared toward bringing the team together, communicating and relating to each other in a way that fosters that trust, and encourages open dialog. We work through some practices that can be brought into any workplace, as well as school and home. If you’re interested in this or other presentations on diversity, empathy or mindfulness in the workplace, email me!