It is no secret that a positive, supportive work environment is key to employee happiness and productivity. But many people must realize that empathy is one of the critical ingredients for creating a prosperous and harmonious workplace.
What is empathy mean?
When most people think of “empathy,” they think of the ability to feel what another person is feeling — to literally put yourself in their place. And while that is undoubtedly a big part of empathy, it is not the only thing.
Genuine empathy is the ability to understand why the other person is feeling that way and respond in a supportive and helpful manner.
So, it is not just about feeling and understanding someone else’s emotional state, thoughts, and experiences but also about wanting to help them feel better and doing what you can to make that happen.
Why is empathy important?
Empathy is crucial because it allows us to understand and share the feelings of others and respond in a way that meets their needs.
When we empathize with someone, we put ourselves in their place and see things from their point of view. We become emotionally connected to them and feel what they are feeling.
When we feel empathy for others, we act with compassion and kindness, which makes the workplace a better place for all of us. Here are 10 examples of empathy:
1. Supporting a colleague experiencing challenges
The best thing to do when a colleague experiences complex personal challenges is to offer support and understanding.
Acknowledge their experience, listen attentively to what they say, and let them know you are there for them.
When dealing with teething issues, it can be hard to focus on work, so be patient and understanding if your coworker seems a little struggling or takes longer to complete tasks.
And do not hesitate to ask how they are doing or if there is anything you can do to help. Sometimes all someone needs are supporting words to get them going.
2. Knowing your colleagues as people, not employees
One of the best things you can do to create a more positive, productive work environment is to know your colleagues as people, not just employees.
When you understand their motivations and what drives them, it is easier to empathize with them and be more patient and understanding when they struggle with their work.
In addition, when you have a genuine interest in your colleagues as people, it is easier for them to feel comfortable opening up to you about personal issues that may be affecting their work performance.
It is also an excellent way to show that you care about them, and you may find that you have more in common with them than you thought, which can build trust and strong relationships.
Read also: 17 Examples of Authenticity
3. Maintaining open communication after disagreements
Disagreements are a part of any relationship, but how we handle them all matters. When disagreements occur, try to maintain open communication and find a resolution.
It may mean you must compromise on certain things, but it is worth it to maintain the relationship. Communicating openly and honestly shows that you care about the other person and want to work things out.
4. Understanding why your colleague is upset
When someone is upset, try to understand why they are upset before reacting. Often, we jump to conclusions, leading to more problems.
Every situation is different, but it is always a good idea to understand why your colleague is upset before reacting. So, step back and listen empathetically.
Ask questions if you need clarification, and be patient while the other person talks. Only after you genuinely listen should you offer any solution or reaction.
And even then, make sure your response is respectful and considerate. Acting out of anger or frustration can only inflame the situation.
5. Validating your colleague’s feelings
It can be frustrating when someone does not take your concerns seriously or dismiss your suggestions. But sometimes, knowing what to do when a colleague is emotional can be tricky.
On the one hand, we do not want to dismiss their feelings, but on the other hand, we may not agree with them or even understand what they are upset about.
The best thing to do in this situation is to acknowledge and validate your colleague’s feelings. It means that you express an understanding of how they feel, even if you do not agree with them or understand what is going on.
Showing empathy can help your colleague feel heard and supported, which may help them calm down and think more clearly.
6. Letting someone vent without interruption
It can be challenging to know what to do when someone is venting to us. On the one hand, we want to be supportive and let them get everything out, but on the other hand, we may not be taking their problem seriously.
People often need to be heard and do not want solutions. They may want to rant and rave about how the situation makes them feel. And that is fine.
But a good rule of thumb is to let them vent without interruption and then offer solutions if they feel comfortable taking them. It is best not to push unless they specifically ask for help, as that can further aggravate the situation.
Read more: 15 Examples of Commitments
7. Sitting down with a coworker facing challenges
Avoid putting boundaries around what you can do to help your colleague. Just listen without judgment, and let them know you can talk if they want to.
Sometimes just knowing someone is there for them is enough to help them through their tough time.
It can be challenging to see someone we care about going through a tough time, but it is essential not to ignore their pain. Sometimes the best thing we can do is sit with them and offer our support.
We may not be able to solve all their problems, but by being there for them, we can let them know that we care and want to help however we can.
8. Offering to help a colleague struggling with a task
Offering to help someone with a task they do not know how to do can be a great way to make new friends or deepen existing relationships.
We all, at some point, have come across a task that intimidates us or is entirely unfamiliar, and it can be comforting to know that we have someone to ask for help.
Many people are scared to ask for help out of fear of exposing their lack of knowledge or seeming incompetent. So often, the best way to offer support is simply by being proactive and taking the initiative to assist.
It can be as simple as saying something like, “Hey, I noticed you were struggling with that task — do you mind if I help?
9. Asking open-ended questions to gain a better understanding
If you want to know something from someone, ask open-ended questions rather than ones that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no” or easily lend themselves to a one-word answer.
Closed questions tend to put people on the defensive and make them less likely to share information with you.
If you want to know something from someone, ask open-ended questions. Closed-ended questions tend to result in a yes or no answer — and that’s not always helpful when trying to build rapport or understand someone.
Open-ended questions invite the other person to elaborate on their thoughts and feelings, which can provide valuable insights into their world. They also help to develop empathy, as you can see things from the other person’s perspective.
Read more: 16 Examples of Taking Responsibility
10. Controlling your frustrations
It is common to feel frustrated or overwhelmed, especially when things do not go our way. However, we cannot take our anger out on others. Not only is it unfair, but it can also lead to damaging relationships.
Instead of lashing out, try taking a few deep breaths and stepping back from the situation. This will allow you to cool down and assess the situation more calmly.
Try talking to the person or people you are frustrated with to understand their perspective better. By doing so, you can communicate better and resolve the issue.
We need to feel connected to others to thrive. The workplace is one of the most important places where we come in contact with each other. It is where we spend most of our time outside our personal lives.
We are all different, but understanding others’ perspectives and caring about them can make our work much more pleasant.
Finally, empathy is crucial for building strong relationships with clients and customers. When we care about the people we serve, they trust us more and do business with us.