Might you learn how to show more empathy at work with this
London, UK based empathy training course?
Here is an example of a problem we often see from people who come to our empathy training course. Over the years lots of participants who have attended our empathy training courses to develop their skills have done so because of issues such as this. It leads them to what to be much better at showing more empathy to others at work. Does this ring any bells for you or someone you know?
The problem – why could showing more empathy at work could save your career?
A capable accountant with sound ideas and lots of energy. But because he talked a great deal and didn’t listen, people complained that he didn’t seem to understand them, because he never showed any empathy. They had little confidence in his advice and were reluctant to take it. This made him very impatient because he knew he was usually right. He couldn’t understand people’s reaction, and put it down to their stupidity. His boss, who thought highly of him, was very concerned about his reputation and tried to make him aware that he was putting people off by not listening. But nothing changed. He was offered an opportunity to have some empathy training with us.
Diagnosis – what stops people from showing more empathy at work?
In his own specialist field there was no-one else in the organisation who knew as much as he did or who was as likely as he was to come up with the right answers. This is what he felt he was being paid for – to provide answers that no-one else could provide. His mental self-reliance was an asset. It enabled him to contribute a great deal to the business. But unfortunately he had taken it to such an extreme it had become a dysfunctional habit, where showing more empathy at work to others never crossed his mind. He had become so preoccupied with his own thoughts that he was unable to pay attention to anyone else’s, let alone show them more empathy. This meant that all he was able to do in conversations was say what he was thinking, rather than empathising or paying any attention to what the other person was saying or thinking. Consequently, his conversations were seriously out of balance - they were almost completely one-sided, with no attempt to show more empathy or attention to the other person. Empathy training was therefore required.
The obstacle – what needs to change before being able to show more empathy at work?
He was going to find it very hard to change. There were two serious obstacles. The first was that he was behaving as though there was only one set of thoughts in the world, his own. He had forgotten (if he ever knew it) that other people had thoughts and feelings quite different from his own. And he had forgotten (if he ever knew it) that it is possible to decide to switch the focus of one’s attention from one’s own thoughts to being able to empathise with someone else’s. He exercised no choice in the matter, and never chose to show more empathy to anyone else. Whenever he had a thought he had to say it. It never occurred to him that he was free not to say it and instead to park it and try to appreciate what the other person was thinking, showing more empathy to them. The second mental obstacle was time pressure. He was very busy and felt under pressure to give the answers. He believed he had no time to waste considering the thoughts of people who knew much less about the subject under discussion than he did. Consequently, he was impatient and unwilling to show more empathy to anyone else. But in spite of these obstacles he accepted that unless he changed his approach he could damage his career, and though he knew it would be very difficult and uncomfortable to change he was keen to try, so was very interested in our empathy training course.
The remedy – how to learn to show more empathy at work to other people (even if you disagree).
It’s no use vaguely advising a poor listener to listen better. What he needed was first to be shown how to do it, in other words, precisely how to phrase a listening response. Then he needed to be made to practise showing more empathy instead of his habitual telling response. And he needed to practise it again and again until his extreme discomfort began to subside and he began to feel at home with a more balanced conversational style. In the months that followed the training he persisted showing more empathy at work and discovered that winning back his colleagues’ confidence in him did more not require a total summersault from him. He didn’t have to do it all the time. It was satisfying enough for them if he listened just some of the time, showing more empathy at work, some of the time. A small change in his behaviour made a very big difference to how other perceived him. It also had a significant in his private life, as showing more empathy at home with those around him made for a totally different atmosphere at home too. His empathy training was a succesful investment.
Common obstacles to showing more empathy at work
Showing more empathy and connecting with others at work is not easy, especially when you don’t see eye-to-eye. There may be mental habits that get in the way. The trouble with these obstacles is if we are unaware of them, then they can exert power over us. The first step in overcoming them is becoming aware of them. Are you aware in yourself of any of the following?
- The belief that since you are not much good at showing more empathy there’s no point in really trying. This is not correct. You will find the practice of showing more empathy at work very rewarding.
- Preoccupation with one’s own thoughts. Some people only understand others whose thoughts coincide with their own. They have yet to learn that we are all free to lay aside your own thoughts and focus completely on someone else’s by showing more empathy to them.
- The spectacles through which we see another person are rarely pure and clear. They are very often tinted or contaminated by our own opinions and prejudices. Usually we are oblivious to this. It helps us to be able to show more empathy to others if we can become more aware of what we are bringing to the party.
- A sense of similarity with the person one is listening to, or with what they are talking about. It is very easy to make assumptions. Instead of listening with an open mind, we listen selectively for evidence to support the assumption that the problem is similar to one’s own, and therefore that one’s own solution will be useful to the other person - but it often isn’t, and they don’t listen to us. If instead we show more empathy we might then uncover the other person’s different perspective.
- Solutionitis. Some people are so keen to offer a solution that they jump prematurely to the wrong conclusion about what the other person’s problem is. Instead of keeping an open mind they try to make the problem fit the solution they already have in mind. Showing more empathy and really tuning in on another person’s wave-length reduces the chances of this happening.
- Fear of hearing a problem to which one does not know the answer. Some people believe that if they cannot produce an answer they are, or are seen to be, failing to live up to expectations. The result can be that they try to relate everything they hear to the things to which they already know the answers, and are afraid to hear anything else. This isn’t showing more empathy, and can get in the way.
- Discomfort in talking about feelings. Some people are not used to talking about feelings, are uncomfortable about it, and rarely do it. Perhaps they are assuming others will be embarrassed, but actually people normally find talking about feelings a relief. Showing more empathy at work is a helpful way to show other people that they are being understood properly.
- Lack of awareness of feelings. Some people have trained themselves to avoid thinking about feelings. They have a strong drive to be rational and logical, and have believed that emotion clouds logic. This is a mistake. It is suppression of emotion that clouds logic. But the result of this belief is that they are out of practice at recognizing feelings, not just their own, but other people’s too, so showing more empathy becomes a challenge as they learn to reconnect with emotions.
If so, you can have a FREE exploratory coaching session. It'll give you a foretaste of what you can get from the course. You make no commitment to proceed beyond this until you're sure this training is relevant to your own particular need.
How to accept this offer
Simply contact us for a preliminary chat and to arrange your free exploratory coaching session.
What this session will do for you
In this session we'll aim to give you something practical you can use right away that'll help you handle a difficult situation more successfully at work. All you need do to prepare for this session is think about the kinds of situations you want to be able to handle more successfully.
You'll find answers to many of your questions about the content and method of this course under FAQs (in the main menu above).