Empathy Matters: How to Practice It


Empathy Matters: How to Practice It

Henry Ford once said that if there is any great secret to success in life, it lies in the ability to put oneself in another person’s place and to see things from his or her point of view—as well as from one’s own.

You’ve heard this before:

You have to “put yourself in the other person’s shoes.”

But why?

Daniel Goleman, internationally known psychologist and author of the best selling book, Emotional Intelligence, writes the following:

"If you can't have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far."

In short, empathy matters. It leads to stronger and trusting relationships, it improves communication and increases a sense of belonging.

Now, here are three simple and powerful ways to practice it:

  1. Listen for More: When someone is telling you a story they are expressing themselves with more than just words. Listen carefully for how they are feeling. Maintain eye contact. You'll be surprised to discover how much more you can understand someone through active listening. 
  2. Shift Your Attention: Make an effort to pay attention to different people and things that surround you. There is so much more we can notice, but often don't because we've created a habit to see only a few things. Your perspective and network will be expanded as you begin to shift your attention. 
  3. Practice Encouragement: Approach three different people each day to give them some words of encouragement. A simple "Good to see you," and a handshake can make a big difference. Empathy is about connection and taking the time to encourage others will allow you to create the necessary conditions to develop stronger relationships. 

A certain philosopher by the name of Aristotle once said: 

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." 

Indeed, we become what we practice. Every day you can make an effort to listen for more, shift your attention and practice encouragement.  You will start leading with more empathy at your workplace and in your life.

And yes, I believe Henry Ford is right, it will make you more successful, too.