June 28

Empathy – What It Is, Why It’s So Important

Emotional Intelligence, Leadership


Hi this is Scott Watson. Welcome to the Mr. Emotional Intelligence Podcast. In this podcast, we’re going to take a quick look at empathy, what it is, why it’s valuable and what happens when it’s not been demonstrated in certain situations.

Empathy is the emotional intelligence competency that relates to your ability and willingness to start from someone else’s position, step into their world and start from where they’re at. It’s especially important where there is disagreement, or upset, or anger. It’s just as important for medical practitioners in terms of the their bedside manner in caring for people to ensure that they don’t just process people, people feel cared for. And, when people feel cared for and listened to and understood, the more likely to give you accurate information and information they may feel embarrassed about but be open to share with you because of that bedside manner, as well as your technical competence.

Let’s look at what’s happened in the UK during the last couple of weeks. The Prime Minister Theresa May has come under increasing pressure to step down from her position and also increasing media pressure to start demonstrating a little bit of kindness, a little bit of humanity in terms of the situation she’s encountered and had to lead the country through from terrorist attacks through to the Grenfell Tower block inferno, which happened just last week, a number of fatalities and perhaps that’s going to increase during the coming days and weeks, too.

Why has there been communities marching through London against the government? Well, part of it is because the community feel that they had been hard done by. They’ve been misled. They’ve been conned, or they’ve been mistreated, or put right at the bottom of the priority list in terms of caring for the community and the members of it. It’s reported but I don’t know whether it’s actually true or not that some of the cladding used on the tower block for decorative purposes is perhaps not up to standard and may even be illegal for use in that kind of property in the UK. I don’t know that.

What’s happened is that Theresa May has appeared so process focused, so task focused, perhaps excessively so, that she’s either forgotten or completely overlooked the need for and value of partnering task focused and outcome focused with some deeply human skills which is to step into that community and understand even in the face of emotional turmoil, upset, and anger, and resentment even. But, this is about leadership. What she’s done is demonstrated that she is more of a manager. She’ll manage a task. She’ll manage an inquiry. She’ll initiate a project, whatever it may be. What she hasn’t done though is lead by example, by demonstrating some deeply human skills that can be trained, but are best when they come through authentically.

On the flip side of the same political coin, Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition Labour Party, has been welcomed with open arms in the community, not because he’s just turned up and started being a nice guy, but he already had a relationship with the community, with certain parts of the community, but the community as a whole. Now, if he’d been prime minister, it’s quite likely he would have dealt with it differently. His compassionate, kind approach would, therefore, need to be balanced with task focused and initiating tasks, and projects, and investigations, and such like. But, what he has demonstrated is that he possesses and can demonstrate at the right time authentically empathy which people connect with, which resonates with people’s hearts, as well as with their minds.

Think of you as a leader and manager or in any kind of role, even a family member. Where do you not demonstrate empathy as much as would be deserved, as much as would be healthy? It’s very likely, if you think about it, that you demonstrate empathy the least when you need it the most and that’s when there’s disagreement, or arguments, or you feel like you’ve not been understood, not been listened to or you’re being attacked verbally or emotionally. Just have a think. That’s a quick look at empathy. How can you start to demonstrate more empathy for the right reasons very authentically to help people, not just warm to you, but trust you and also demonstrate healthy compassion, as well as very good decision-making and everything else that goes with life as well? Please have a think and I’ll catch up with you soon.




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