We’ve all had that sinking feeling after sharing something personal. When the person we’re confiding in doesn’t make us feel heard or understood, we’re left embarrassed and worse off than before.
Empathy is a critical part of all relationships, professional ones included.
Modern brands and women in business know how important it is to have leaders who are adept at cultivating empathy in business. It takes a lot to share a concern or worry with someone, even when you’re close to that person. Being vulnerable in front of a boss, colleague or professional contact is even more daunting – you'd never want to harm your working relationship or office atmosphere.
Even if you consider yourself to be empathetic, you may find yourself in a situation where you struggle to stay sensitive. There are a number of reasons for this, and it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve completely lost your predisposition for empathy.
Maybe there’s something in your own life that’s pulling your attention, or it’s possible that you truly don’t understand what the other person is saying. Even probing a bit for more clarification can accidentally come off as unfeeling.
These reactions are normal and human. Unfortunately, even a one-time lack of empathy can harm a professional relationship. On the other hand, showing empathy, even if you’re struggling with it, can strengthen your bond.
Let’s explore the three main types of empathy.
- Cognitive empathy is knowing and understanding the way another person feels.
- Emotional empathy is experiencing the same feelings of another person.
- Compassionate empathy is feeling and understanding what someone else is going through, and then wanting to help them.
Compassionate empathy is the winner.
Cognitive empathy can have a level of detachment because you don’t feel what the other person feels. Emotional empathy has the opposite problem – it's so emotion-oriented that it’s nearly impossible to take action. Compassionate empathy, though, combines the best facets of both.
A note about taking action
You don’t have to completely solve the problem. Instead, taking action can be as simple as making an effort to cheer them up. Take them to a movie after work; join them during their lunch break; or send them a thoughtful gift, like a personalized potted plant, to let them know they’re important to you.
Do you have a story about showing or receiving empathy in the workplace? Please tell us!