This Increases Influence and Strengthens Relationships
Written by Melissa Kessler, MA, PCC
Do you want to influence others? Do you want to strengthen your personal and professional relationships? Demonstrating empathy is one of the best ways to build connection and trust. It makes people feel cared about and understood. Empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and see things from their perspective. It’s demonstrated when others believe that you understand and care about what they are experiencing emotionally.
According to Don Brown and Bill Hawkins in their book Bring Out the Best in Every Employee, empathy is directly connected to how engaged employees become in performing for their leaders. According to their research, nothing is more central to employees’ discretionary effort (going the extra mile because they want to) than empathy.
Recently, one of my clients demonstrated empathy beautifully. He had to be the one to tell his peers about an unpopular directive that must be followed. Many of them were angry and frustrated, voicing their complaints to him, even though he was only the messenger with no authority change it. He could have chosen to say, “There’s nothing I can do. We must follow this guidance.” Instead, he asked them, “What are your concerns?” Then he listened and empathized with their frustration. By showing he cared and understood, they were able to move forward. He strengthened their relationship by demonstrating empathy rather than damaging it by showing apathy.
When you actively listen to others and make them feel heard and understood, you increase your influence exponentially. Empathic listeners are perceived as friendly, likeable, and trustworthy. We are drawn to these people and are more willing to reciprocate to them in their time of need. It takes effort and courage to listen and be able to see things through someone else’s eyes. However, empathy is the mark of truly great leaders and one of the best traits we could have. I think we could all use a little more empathy. If we all worked to increase our capacity for empathy, our world would be a better place.
“Empathy is connecting with the emotion that someone is experiencing, not the event or the circumstance.” – Brené Brown
“In order to empathize with someone’s experience, you must be willing to believe them as they see it, and not how you imagine their experience to be.” – Brené Brown
“Empathy is connecting with people, so we know we’re not alone when we’re in struggle.” – Brené Brown