Top-Shelf Tip No. 112:

"I think we all have empathy. We may not have enough courage to display it."

Maya Angelou

How To Amplify Your Empathy

Empathy, the ability to experience and relate to the thoughts and emotions of others, is a much-needed soft skill in the workplace. While most professionals have the key skills they need to perform in their role, many often lack the ability to truly connect with others. They fall short when it comes to empathy.

Pamela McLean, Ph.D., CEO and co-founder of Hudson Institute of Coaching, says it's easy to learn skills that serve our specific roles, whether that's strategy building or project planning, but it's often a bit more difficult to learn the meta-skills that require us to be great at the how of what we do. Empathy is one of these critical meta-skills. If you want to better connect with others. Dr. McLean says there are some steps you can take to amplify your empathy. We explore her thoughts in this issue of Promotional Consultant Today.

Step into someone else's shoes without walking in them. How often do you find yourself listening to someone sharing a story and find yourself thinking about a similar experience in your own life? Dr. McLean urges people to stop and listen to the other through their experience. Understand through inquiry what a particular situation is like for the other, not how you would deal with it. Step into their shoes for a moment and appreciate what this might be like for them. Nothing to solve, nothing to rescue-just the reality that your connection will be vastly increased when you see and hear the other's experience and respond from a connected place.

Calibrate your empathy. Have you ever told someone about something that is keeping you awake at night and they brush it off as though not hearing your words and quickly move to another topic? Too little or too much empathy creates a disconnect. Each of us needs to find the right balance of empathy. Whether we over-empathize and care too much, or completely miss the opportunity to connect using empathy, Dr. McLean says the result is similar—we miss the opportunity to build a working relationship. Finding our equilibrium and noticing where we tend to land is served by conscious attention to how we connect when we are in conversations that matter.

Take care of yourself. There is an important link between taking care of ourselves and being there for others. One way we build more empathy for others is by taking better care of ourselves and building our own resilience. Self-care is more than an annual vacation or a glass of wine at the end of the day; it's the daily ways we step back and tune into when we need a rest, more sleep, a walk or a moment to unwind. This act of connecting to our own needs better equips us to attend to the needs of others.

Disrupt yourself. We increase our capacity to engage with empathy when we broaden our experiences and reduce our tendency to rush to judgments. Disrupting ourselves in little ways in our weekly routines as well as in bigger ways in life-where we go, who we spend time with, and what new learning we take on-serves to expand our view of the world and grow our empathy. When we get out of our comfort zone, try something new, and step into a space that is largely unknown to us, we build resilience and increase our capacity to empathize with a broader range of situations and experiences.

Compiled by Audrey Sellers

Source: Pamela McLean, Ph.D., is CEO and co-founder of Hudson Institute of Coaching, a coaching firm providing a full suite of coaching services to organizations and leaders. McLean's latest book is Self as Coach, Self as Leader.

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