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You say you care … but do you?

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in Centerpiece,Leaders & Managers,People Management

EmpathyDo you possess a high degree of empathy? Answer these three questions:

1. When a colleague opens up to you and shares a painful experience, do you try to lighten the moment?

2. When a colleague seems upset with you, do you defend yourself?

3. If someone shares an anecdote (about their weekend, a speech they gave last week, etc.), do you respond by telling an anecdote as well?

Any “yes” answers are a red flag, indicating a lack of empathy despite your best intentions.

Truly empathetic listeners have a high tolerance for absorbing others’ sadness and emotional struggles. They don’t run from others’ expressions of pain; instead, they focus on understanding how others feel and what they are going through.

To showcase your empathy, communicate your willingness to heed others’ feelings. Respond by saying, “That must really be tough for you” or “It sounds like you’re under stress. Tell me more about it.”

Resist the urge to compare someone’s experience to your own. People who reveal their emotional state may not want to learn about your emotions; instead, they may prefer to confide in a trustworthy sounding board—an attentive ally who listens without judgment.

Above all, do not attempt to minimize another person’s travails. Replying, “That’s nothing compared to what I went through…” will undermine the relationship.

Avoid responding with empathy-killing phrases such as, “At least you…” or “It could be worse…” Tell yourself, “It’s not about me” so that you remain attuned to the speaker’s feelings.

— Adapted from “Brene Brown on Empathy vs. Sympathy,” Kate Thieda, www.psychologytoday.com.

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