The Power of Empathy for Building great relationships

  By Patricia Conlin  |    Sunday April 10, 2017

Category: Expert Advice, Motivational


I have a secret to share with you. Lean in closer and I will tell you. Guess what. People don’t really want you to solve their problems. Yes, it’s true. What people really crave is connection. We are built for connection with each other and when we deny that, we lose something in the relationship.

Let me give you an example. Have you ever asked a candidate or client “How are you doing today? ” I bet you have. Have you ever heard someone respond with “I’m really feeling stressed. ” or “I’ve had a really bad day” or even something worse. Do you remember what you said to them? Did you say something like:

You’ll feel better tomorrow.

I feel stressed too.

You’re always stressed at that job!

You might think these responses are great but they come across as either dismissive, or disinterested. Essentially, you are saying, I hear you but don’t really care about how you are feeling! When you ignore how others are feeling, you miss the opportunity to connect and create a closer bond. So when others are speaking, listen for the emotion behind what they say and ACKNOWLEDGE IT! Guess what, this will boost your success and make you feel great for building better connections at the same time. What I am talking about is called Empathizing. What most people want from any relationship is to be acknowledged, and more specifically, to have their feelings acknowledged. If you consistently avoid acknowledging others feelings, they will distance themselves from you whether intentionally or unintentionally and that is the last thing we want as recruiters for both client and candidate relationships. Statements like: “I’m feeling tired/stressed/pissed/not myself today” are moments of vulnerability and really good opportunities for you to either grow in closeness… or retreat by turning away. We want to grow with our clients and candidates not push them away!

Empathy is defined as sensing others’ feelings and perspectives, and taking an active interest in their concerns; the ability to put yourself in another's place and to take that perspective into account in your relationship with the other person.

Please who are strong in empathy are attentive to and able to attune to a wide range of emotional signals, listen for and sense the felt, but unspoken emotions in a person or group show sensitivity to and understand others’ perspectives and feelings – they can “walk a mile in the other persons moccasins” , are able to help the other person or the group based on an accurate understanding of their needs and feelings. Please lacking empathy stereotype others, show no understanding, or misunderstand, or are surprised by others’ feelings or actions, often come into conflict, cannot “read” people and what they are thinking and feeling, tend to act without considering how others might feel about something, come across as indifferent or uncaring.

Below are some tips to develop your Empathy skills:

•  Listening is the key to empathy. Quiet your mind, still the inner clamor, and listen deeply for more than the other person’s words. Listen for the other person’s needs (i.e., to be respected, to be included, to be acknowledged?)

•  Identify underlying concerns that are not explicitly stated by others like fear, loneliness, guilt, regret, sadness etc.

•  Hear the emotions that accompany an expressed statement

•  Listen when someone approaches you to express their feelings (don’t be so busy you can’t talk with the other person about what’s important to them; don’t brush them off)

•  Acknowledge what you think you’ve heard. Paraphrase, repeat back, and clarify the emotions you think you are hearing (i.e. “Sounds like you’re feeling frustrated,” or ”Sounds like you’re pretty excited by this project”)

•  Withhold your judgments; when temped to criticize or dismiss the opinions of another, stop. Step back and consider, on an emotional level as well as a cognitive level, what the other person may be experiencing and what merits another’s point of view may have.

•  Communicate and acknowledge your perception of the other persons feelings for example “ I am sorry to hear that you are stressed today. That must be difficult for you”

“If there is any great secret of success in life, it lies in the ability to put yourself in the other person’s place and to see things from his point of view – as well as your own.” – Henry Ford 

“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.” - Dale Carnegie


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