I have long been fascinated by the topic of creating empathy. In business, I believe that empathy is one of the most untapped sources of performance. But, how does one go about teaching or transmitting empathy? At an organisational level, the challenge is scale and consistency, especially during the difficult moments (e.g. in times of crisis…). Then there is injecting empathy into a machine, so called “Artificial Empathy.” But what about the individual human being? If you’re ambition is upgrade your brand’s empathic powers, I say: start with yourself.
Upgrading Your Empathy
From my experience and research, here are the five most powerful ways to enhance your empathic abilities, also known as your empathic muscle.
- Listen. Practice active listening, by reformulating what you hear out loud. This can be done with anyone on any media, starting off with low risk situations, such as the cashier at your local market or the bus driver. Observe the non-verbal cues. The key is to be entirely focussed on the intended meaning and feelings of the other.
- Explore Differences. Explore other environments where people come from a different background than yours. For example, you might want to join a local community outreach or volunteer in a charity shop. Immerse yourself in the diversity of someone else’s experience.
- Read Fiction. By reading literary fiction, you explore and relate to other characters. You will get exposed to the intricacies and inner thoughts of others, that you’re not naturally going to find in day-to-day life. The research suggests that the fiction ought to be a classic (aka high-brow), but there are many less well-known books that provide wonderful insights and interpersonal relationships, not to mention intrigue!
- Do Mindfulness. While mindfulness and mediation are all the rage these days, it’s also a practical way to focus on the here and now. And it’s very relevant to be present when listening to someone else. My preferred mindfulness guide is Monique Rhodes (The Ten Minute Mind). Monique refers to the ability to bring your focus back on the present as developing a muscle. It’s a muscle that is keenly linked to the empathy muscle!
- Know Why. I put this last because it’s most likely to be the hardest to digest. It ought actually to be the starting point. If you know why you want to be more empathic, you’ll create the environment, take the time and make the effort.
What other ways do you suggest? Happy to hear your comments!