Career Development

How To Be Empathetic in the Workplace

February 26, 2021

Empathy is an important skill that will serve you well in many areas of your life. When you’re empathic toward those you work with, you may find that your performance enjoys a significant boost. Strive to improve your empathy and you may notice a big difference in your interactions and overall job success. The following tips can help you improve your empathy in professional situations.

What is empathy?

Empathy is one’s ability to understand someone else’s emotions and state of mind. When you’re exhibiting empathy, you’re not actually sharing the emotion or experience, but you’re imagining what it would be like to experience the same situation as though you are the other person.

When you experience empathy, you may sense some of the same feelings as the person you’re being empathic toward. If your coworker recently experienced a loss, you might feel sadness for their situation. You aren’t experiencing the level of grief that they are, but you’re able to imagine what that grief would feel like and respond in a way that’s sensitive to what they may be experiencing.

Some people used to consider empathy as a character trait more than a teachable skill. While it’s true that some people have a natural tendency toward exhibiting empathy, this doesn’t mean that others can’t acquire the skill. Empathy is closely related to emotional intelligence. The more you understand another person’s emotions, the better you can respond to them.

Empathy helps you build a rapport with those around you and can strengthen relationships in all aspects of your life. Though it may not always come naturally to you, empathy is something you can learn.

Read more: Building Rapport: Tips and Examples

The importance of empathy in the workplace

Empathy can help you connect with coworkers in your workplace. Using empathy encourages you to focus on key aspects of these individuals’ journeys, which will inform you of the best way to relate to them.

Maintaining positive working relationships with coworkers and clients is an essential key to success in many industries. Your workplace manner can have a major impact on your employability and success. The ability to empathize with callers can help you excel in customer service or sales. Improving your social skills will help you improve in nearly any job.

Showing that you’re an empathetic individual can give you an advantage in a job interview. When asked how you might handle a conflict with another employee, begin by explaining that you would consider that individual’s point of view. If you’re asked how your personality fits into the team, mention that you strive to be empathic toward others and facilitate positive conversations that keep others’ viewpoints in mind.

This is a desirable skill that many employers look for among potential employees. You can highlight your empathetic abilities on your resume by mentioning it with some of your previous job responsibilities.

For example, you might empathize with callers to help them achieve a satisfying outcome that resolves their problem and boosts loyalty. A teacher will strive to empathize with students when helping them develop homework habits that fit their individual lifestyles. HR professionals empathize with employees as they’re assisting them in finding employee programs that will better their lifestyles.

Related: Social Skills: Definition and Examples

How to be empathetic in the workplace

Here are some ways to show empathy in the workplace:

1. Approach problems from another’s viewpoint

Imagine that you’re starting from your team member’s perspective. Even if you don’t reach the same conclusion that they did, you’ll have a better understanding of their thought process, which can inform your future discussions.

2. Ask questions to learn more about the other person’s point of view

Ask what experiences have lead to a particular conclusion. Consider the outlying factors that caused the person to make the decision that they did. If you don’t understand the situation, keep asking questions until you do. Empathy comes with a deeper understanding of what has happened.

3. Validate others’ perspectives from the beginning of the conversation

If you’re working with an unsatisfied customer, tell them you know it is a frustrating experience. Acknowledge their feelings and let them know that this is an appropriate way to feel, even if you can’t fully empathize with them yet.

4. Ask questions about the circumstances

Inquire about issues surrounding the problem so you can better understand your customer or coworker’s perspective. If you’re speaking with a buyer who is unhappy with the product, ask about their expectations before receiving the product and their experience using it. This will help you understand the shopper’s entire journey so you can better empathize with how they currently feel.

5. Determine the preferred resolution

This is particularly useful in customer service. Would the customer prefer a new product or a refund? Is the ultimate goal to get the software to work or to find a different product entirely? You can empathize better when you can see the individual’s goal and understand what they’re working toward.

6. Develop your listening skills in daily interactions

When a coworker discusses an experience that you’re not familiar with, ask how that made them feel. Check in again after a few days and see how they’re doing. Though you may not have this experience yourself, your understanding of what your coworker experience will help you have greater empathy for others who find themselves facing similar situations in the future.

Read more: Active Listening Skills: Definition and Examples

7. Offer to help others

Ask them what they need and provide assistance where you can. Understanding what others need in a difficult situation is one way that you can understand that challenge better.

8. Challenge your biases

It’s natural to gravitate toward people similar to you, but you’ll learn more when you begin conversations with people you wouldn’t ordinarily communicate with. You can talk to coworkers you normally don’t communicate with, or form stronger connections with regular customers to learn more about them.

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