Leading with empathy

Want to increase ‘followership’ in your team? Let people know you empathise with their needs and concerns.

Empathy is the ability to spot, understand and acknowledge someone else’s feelings. When you empathise with someone, you tune into their reality. Doing this helps you connect and build rapport – so people will listen to you.

Try these steps for showing empathy – even in response to irrational behaviour.

Shift sides

Show you want to understand the other person’s position. Avoid talking about your own perspective. Instead summarise what you know about theirs. Use reflective statements to do this – for example:

  • I know _____ is important to you
  • To you, what matters is _________
  • So what you think is ___________

Acknowledge their feelings

Empathising involves acknowledging another person’s feelings. It doesn’t mean sharing or agreeing with those feelings.  You can use empathic statements to acknowledge feelings. A basic empathic statement is formed in two parts. Part one acknowledges what the irrational person feels. Part two acknowledges why they feel that way. Here are some phrases you can use in your empathic statements:

  • I imagine you feel…because…
  • Right now, you’re feeling…because…
  • When [event] happened, you felt [emotion]
  • Let me check that I understand how you feel about…

Check you got it right

It’s not just what you say that matters. Your attitude also plays an important part. Don’t assume your interpretation of the other person’s feelings is accurate. Prompt for feedback on your empathic statement by saying:

  • Is that right?
  • Have I understood you correctly?
  • Am I getting what you mean?

Train your leaders to communicate with empathy and rapport. Contact Eleanor Shakiba now to find out more.

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