How to Communicate With More Empathy
August 30, 2022 | BY Simcha Felder , CPA, MBA
Academics, business consultants and employees agree that empathy is one of the most important skills in a successful business leader. Empathy has always been a critical skill, but over the last two years, business leaders may feel they have become something akin to the “Counselor in Chief” or “Chief Empathy Officer.” During challenging times, empathic communications are even more necessary, but empathy is not a trait that comes naturally to everyone. The good news is that even leaders who are not naturally empathic can still communicate messages of empathy in a way that inspires people, builds loyalty and strengthens bonds within their company.
What exactly is empathy? According to the Center for Creative Leadership, empathy is the ability to experience and relate to the thoughts, emotions, or experience of others. In other words, empathy is the ability to understand someone from their perspective. It is the ability to share in how another person feels as they encounter different circumstances, situations and life experiences. Empathy welcomes people to shift from their own experiences and instead think about the experiences of those they interact with.
Why does it matter? According to the statistics, there are many benefits surrounding the importance of empathy in work cultures. Incorporating empathy into a business culture leads to increased employee retention, higher engagement levels, better chances at recruiting top talent, greater employee satisfaction, and better business results. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella says, “Empathy makes you a better innovator. If I look at the most successful products
we have created, it comes with that ability to meet the unmet, unarticulated needs of customers.”
Just as each of us has varying levels of empathy, not every leader is equally empathic. Regardless of how empathic you are or think you are, here are four simple ways to improve empathy in your communications:
Listening – When communicating, listening is just as important as speaking (maybe more so). Listening with empathy means listening with the purpose of understanding another person’s situation or perspective, by suspending your own thinking, opinions and judgments. Sometimes just an attentive presence is enough to alleviate concerns. Remember that listening only works when the mouth is closed and the ears are open!
Acknowledgement – Leaders are generally good at getting stuff done. But often, when it comes to challenging situations, that’s not what people need. Many times people just need your ear and your caring presence. Many problems just need to be heard and acknowledged, showing the person that you are now aware of the situation and recognize how it can be stressful.
Care – Express authentic feelings of care about how a challenge affects your team. Expressions of care indicate that you are moved by a situation. Remember to not be the predominant speaker during communication exchanges, and don’t talk at length about difficult decisions you’ve had to make. Referencing yourself this way may feel soothing to you, but it is your job to support your team, not the other way around.
Action -Finally, expressions of action are among the best ways to display empathy. By first acknowledging and then acting to address the challenges an employee may be facing, leaders build and strengthen the trust in that relationship. Consider asking simply, ”What do you need?” By giving the person an opportunity to reflect on what they may need, you are initiating a solution to the issue while allowing the person feel heard and seen.
There is no question that the ability to step into another person’s shoes and understand their situation is a powerful trait that builds trust and faith. While empathy may not come easily to all leaders, that shouldn’t stop them from communicating with empathy. At its most basic level, empathy is about building stronger relationships.
This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, nor should it be relied upon for, legal or tax advice. If you have any specific legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, please consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.