Thoughts on teaching empathy and why organizations need it now more than ever

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What power does empathy have? Does it have the ability to help us better understand one another? Yes. Does it enable teams to perform better and create a more supportive work environment? Yes, it does.

We have reached an incredible time where world leaders, educators, parents, and others are re-assessing what skills we should really be teaching future generations in school and in the workplace. Technological advancement, innovations, and industrial shifts mean that specific hard skills need to be learned. But that’s not the only skills we need. In order to navigate this new paradigm, we also need soft-skills such as problem solving, communication, empathy. Unlike job-specific skills, soft skills are transferable to other industries. The average person will have 12 jobs in their lifetime, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, so possessing skills that are beneficial in any industry and job will make you more employable. Soft skills are not only valuable in professional settings but also in our personal lives. And it holds especially true for a skill like empathy.

With the divide and conflicts that currently exist in the world, we need to teach empathy; now more than ever.

Empathy is the ability to imagine yourself in someone else’s position, to see situations from their perspective and gauge how they might be feeling. Empathy makes us better people because it enables us to see pass our prejudices and find connections with others amidst differences. While I can go on about the impact empathy has on bridging divides, there are many other elements to empathy and why it’s such an important skill to develop.

“Leadership is about empathy. It is about having the ability to relate to and connect with people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives.” — Oprah Winfrey

When you understand a person, their needs, goals, how they think and feel, you are able to help them grow. Your ability to empathize with someone in their situation allows you to anticipate what they need to reach their full potential. It’s what can make you a great friend, a supportive colleague, an inspiring leader. According to Margaret Heffernan, empathy is an ingredient that makes some teams better than others. In a study that Thomas Malone conducted with MIT researchers, teams where participants gave one another equal time to talk, are sensitive to each others’ social cues and shifts in mood, and included more women - more diverse, performed better. Individual intelligence level on the other hand, did not make a difference. Empathetic teams understand and respect each other as well as their differing opinions. They see the value in seeing things from different angles, the value in diversity, which helps them come up with more creative solutions.

Empathy is also a skill that can help your employees turn their customer service from satisfactory to outstanding. In situations that require you to help others such as your customers, “putting their needs centre-stage may enable you to see the situation differently and perhaps offer more useful support and assistance.” And if you’re looking for a complete training solution in customer service that includes topics ranging from ‘skills for excellent customer service’; ‘managing relationships and building loyalty’; to ‘understanding customer types and dealing with cultural differences’, get in touch with us at info@funzi.fi to receive more information.

From helping leaders inspire and motivate, to ensuring the best customer service, to making the world a better, safer, and more equal place; empathy plays a key role. It is the foundation of good social relationships. So isn’t empathy for others one of the skills we should really cultivate?

Let us know what your thoughts are on this! And don’t hesitate to send us a message if you’re looking for ways to teach empathy.