Frequently when consulting with teams and individuals the topic of empathy arises because it is such an important element of effective relationships and conflict resolution.
What is Empathy?Empathy is having the capacity to recognize and understand others’ feelings and opinions by figuratively walking in their shoes or seeing things through their eyes. When we strengthen our empathy skills we have stronger, more meaningful relationships, success in the workplace and overall improved well-being and quality of life.
Some of us are born with natural empathetic skills that we practice regularly; however, that certainly isn’t the case with everyone. People often ask if empathy can be learned and if children and adults with autism spectrum conditions can be taught. The answer to both questions is yes!
Empathy can be learned and taughtThe fact that empathy can be learned and taught is significant. The next step is helping teams and individuals understand why they need to learn and strengthen their empathy skills and ultimately how that impacts their relationships and conflict resolution.
Through my consulting on employee conflict resolution, one of the major challenges that I realize quite quickly is the great difficulty many have relating to each other - in particular, their inability to understand each other’s perspectives. Generally, people aren't out to hurt, provoke or aggravate their colleagues; most often they struggle putting themselves in their colleague’s shoes. Sometimes we feel so strong and passionately that we aren’t able and/or willing to step back and consider another’s rationale or point of view.
It’s not just about what you said…
If we take the 93% rule into account (a famous study by Professor Emeritus) we understand that;
When communicating about feelings and attitudes, words – the things we say – account for only 7 percent of the total message that people receive. The other 93 percent of the message that we communicate when we speak is contained in our tone of voice and body language. It's important, then, to spend some time to understand how we come across when we communicate with others about our feelings and attitudes.
When it comes to our relationships, personal and professional, it’s imperative to take the time to comprehend how we come across and communicate to others so that there's a better understanding of the message we intend to send.