Humans have a sophisticated capacity for empathy because of our huge working memory and well-developed neocortex. It is the result of the mirror neurons in our brain that lets the human fundamentally alter the understanding of empathy. Since then, the neuroscientists have identified such behavior as the “empathy circuit” in our brains. If by any chance this circuit gets damaged, our ability to understanding the feelings of other people can curtail.
Did this all go over your head? We totally feel you. Science has its own way of explaining simple things in a complex manner, so we have tried to simplify it for you.
Empathy in its most generic form is known as the capacity of an individual to recognize and understand the feelings and emotions of other beings. All humans are said to be born with the ability to empathize with one another; the degree of empathy may vary from person to person. It is simply the ability to sense other people’s emotions, united with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling.
Empathy is not about “you either have it, or you don’t”unless you’ve experienced some traumatic experience that shook off your mind and took away your ability to be empathetic.
As far as the individual behavior is concerned, empathetic people are more likely to be generous and concerned with other people’s welfare and are said to have happier and healthier relationships.
The Key Importance of Empathy in Personal Life
The more open you are about your own emotions, the more easily will you be able to attune to the emotions and feelings of others and especially your partner. Empathy lets you peek into your partner’s heart and understand their feelings without them saying much.
#2. We can often tell a lot about people by just watching their body language or non-verbal cues. An empathetic person will be able to observe the facial expressions, hand motions, gestures and tone of voice of their partners and analyze if there is something unusual about it.
#3. It’s more important to understand the unsaid than the things that have been put into words. Studies suggest that partners who can decipher each other’s’ nonverbal messages are more likely to sustain their relationships.
#4. An empathetic partner will always hear what their loved ones tell them. By giving your partner or friends or family members a chance to express themselves without interfering will help in improving the relationship.
#5. While listening is the key to developing empathy, it’s also important for you to not judge the person you are with. A non-judgemental conversation is what each one of us craves for. If you wish to develop empathy with your partner, it is highly important for you to stay non-judgemental and understanding.
#6. An empathetic partner is good at reflecting the emotions by putting aside your opinions and views; you’ll be able to focus on your partner’s need.
Empathy effects at Work
Empathy is not only important on a personal level but in your workplace too. It’s important for both the leaders and the team members. Studies suggest that a correlation between empathy and sales, high performance of managers, and improved performance of other team members. Studies also revealed that empathy helps in improving leadership abilities and facilitates effective communication.
It’s been proven that empathy plays a significant role in stimulating the effectiveness of relationships. Here’s a list of how empathy can help you at your workplace.
#1. Better Understanding
If you are able to empathize with your co-workers, you’ll be able to understand them better, hence developing a better relationship. For a team leader or a manager, empathy could be his/her winning streak. They’ll be able to understand their team members and address their problems in a better manner.
#2. Better Communication
If your co-workers are aware of your empathetic attitude, they’ll be able to communicate with you without the uncertainty. They’ll be able to express themselves and you too will be able to read between the lines. You’ll be able to see the perceptions on which your employees are feeding clearly.
#3. Dealing With Conflict
Conflicts are bound to happen when a number of people surround you. Arguments and disagreements in the workplace is a usual phenomenon, and an empathetic manager can get away with it in no time. Dealing with such conflicts become really easy if there is an understanding between the co-workers regarding each other’s’ motivations and fears.
#4. Better Prediction Of Future Events
If you are empathetic and can relate to your colleagues, it’ll be easy for you to decipher the reactions to certain actions. This in return will help you in being well prepared for the situations. Also, it will help you in motivating the people around you.
Empathy is Important for Leaders
Empathy is essential for leaders to coordinate with his/her current workforce. Being empathetic
#1. Helps in increasing the use of team members
#2. Helps in developing pace of globalization due to cross-cultural communication
#3. Helps in retaining the experienced employees
Empathy also enables the leaders to provide their employees with an environment that encourages open communications and feedbacks, understanding and navigation of problems, and validation of employees.
How To Develop Empathy?
Empathy is a quality that can be learned. Here’s how you can develop empathy:
#1. Be A Good Listener
There is no denying that for some just listening could be a major challenge. Sometimes we only intend on giving our own opinions instead of listening to others. But to gain empathy, it is very important for you to start listening to what other feels; because that’s the only way you can get an insight into their minds and hearts.
#2. Be Fully Present And Available
Being fully present implies being available and present to the people you are, which obviously excludes your friend that you were chatting with on WhatsApp. Keep your phone at a distance, stay away from checking any emails, do not accept any calls while you interact with the people present in the room. By being fully available to people, you can even tune into some nonverbal communications with them.
#3. Smile Cause It Costs Nothing
Smiles are seriously contagious. Cingulate cortex is the part of your brain which is responsible for bringing a smile to your face, which is an unconscious and involuntary response area. Because smiling releases the ‘feel good’ chemicals in the brain, it activates the reward centers and improves our health.
Passing a smile to anyone and everyone will help you connect with them instantly.
#4. Prefer Calling People With Their Names
Encouraging people can be as simple as nodding at them while they put their point in a meeting. This simple gesture coupled with using their name can have a prominent impact on your relationship building skills.
#5. Try To Empathize With People With Different Ideologies
Just when you plan on developing empathy, do not take the easy route out. It is obviously not tough to empathize with people who are like minded. The actual problem occurs when you are expected to understand and empathize with the ones you cannot relate with. Instead of completely rejecting their beliefs, just choose to perceive things from their point of view.
#6. Keep Your Recognition As Genuine As Possible
Take a step further from “great job” and “ you can do better.” Try to be more genuine with your compliments. Your co-workers would appreciate if you could be honest about your feedbacks. Also, they’ll make sure to consult you each time they complete any project.
#7. Have Deep Conversations With Your Colleagues
We understand that most employees prefer to keep their personal and professional life separate and hence it is difficult to talk to them on a personal level. But if you feel that a co-worker is disturbed or is having any issues, you should address them. Having a deep conversation with your colleague will promote interpersonal relationships.
It is an excellent way to jump into the waters of empathy directly. While you listen to this employee, with a smile, calling them with their name and encouraging them, they are sure to break down in front of you.