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Empathy

Hi. Welcome to another episode of Jack Chat and another tiny lesson in leadership, straight up.

Now, it may be fairly obvious to most of you… but, leadership is HARD. People don’t always do what they should do – and sometimes with destructive consequences.

Leaders often ask me for advice on how to deal with these tough situations. There are many techniques I can share, but let’s start with a big one: Empathy.

You might think about empathy as “putting yourself in the other person’s shoes.” And, that’s not a bad definition, but it’s important to also consider what most people find most difficult about empathy… and that is they don’t AGREE with the way the other person is behaving, even after they’ve imagined themselves in the other person’s shoes.

This leads us to your leadership lesson: Empathy does NOT mean you have to agree with how the person is behaving. It simply means you believe the way they are interpreting the circumstances has led to their behavior.

Now for the kicker… you can empathize with a person and still directly and clearly address the problem behavior. Let’s look at an example:

“Hey Bernice… I’m guessing you’ve been pretty worried about that big client meeting you have coming up, it makes sense you’d be preoccupied with your thoughts about doing a good job. But, I noticed in your preoccupation that you took the last donut from the box. What can you tell me about that?”

And now for your self-reflection question. The next time you’re in a tough conversation, ask yourself, “What might this person be thinking and feeling?”

Give it some thought… see what insight comes up for you… and come back for another chat!

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