Empathy is a strength that is often confused with sympathy. The difference is straightforward. Sympathy involves understanding emotions from your own perspective. Empathy involves putting yourself in the other person's shoes and understanding their emotions.
In her book, ‘Strengths Profile’, Bateman explains that people with a greater degree of empathy are finely tuned into other people and can feel what they are experiencing. She goes on to say that it is about seeing things from other people’s points of view and considering what you might do if you were in their shoes.
Leaders with high empathy are skilled at understanding the challenges faced by their teams. They have a natural ability to step away from their own impulses and pressures to truly put themselves in the driving seat of the other person. Therefore, building special relationships with people using the strength of empathy is so important in the workplace. It leads to two-way connection and an understanding and appreciation of another’s’ emotional state.
When empathy becomes problematic…
Whilst empathy is a great strength to have, it can become problematic when it is at the expense of your own thoughts and feelings. People strong in empathy and less so in their own self-regard may put the needs of others before themselves and if this occurs too much, a person can feel the weight of the world on their shoulders. If this sounds like you, take some time out for yourself. Bateman advises that you should ‘protect your emotions by distancing yourself and remembering that you have your own needs to attend to, too.’
Want to develop your empathy? Think about who you admire for their empathy. Be it someone in the workplace or a celebrity.
How do they project this strength?
How could you use this?