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  • Lisa Thrive


Updated: Aug 3, 2022

This is the first Thriving from Coaching series of thought-points for leaders. Today, it’s Empathy.

When I’m working with leaders we often end up on the topic of empathy. Empathy is a valuable emotion in a leader’s repertoire, but it is too often confused with sympathy and therefore overlooked. When used well, empathy has the potential to diffuse difficult situations, to advance conversations and to strengthen working relationships. It is non-judgmental and leads to understanding. Leading with empathy gives you the ability to emotionally read other people, and create more successful outcomes. It doesn’t mean just agreeing with the other person. Why then is it so neglected?

“I can’t show empathy; my team will think I’m just a push-over!” is a common response when I suggest introducing empathy into the conversation. Once I distinguish empathy and sympathy, and bring to mind that an insight will emerge. The idea is to say less of “If I was in your situation, I would do…” and more of “You must find this difficult, what do you feel you need help with…?” Instead of considering how would feel if you were in their shoes, consider how they feel being in their shoes. Tune into what the person is thinking and feeling; it will help you both get further in resolving the issue.

Using empathy will positively contribute to solving a number of your leadership challenges – performance, engagement, negotiation, motivation, inclusion. Why don’t you give it a try during your next challenging encounter and see if showing empathy moves that relationship/ issue/problem along. I’d be keen to hear how it goes.

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