It is one of the most frequently heard complaints from employees about their supervisors and colleagues: the lack of empathy they are getting. Being able to empathize with the feelings and experiences of others is a powerful skill that can be extremely valuable, especially in the workplace. Alas, not many people are capable of doing so. But there is some movement about this whole thing, some light at the end of the tunnel. And you can teach yourself to become (more) empathic as the power of empathy can work miracles on the work floor.
What to do when your bosses have no empathy? You could also start making money on the side. How? Check my last few paragraphs!
Unfortunately, the cliché of the rude boss or the insensitive colleague who drives others crazy at times is still alive. Everyone knows a colleague or manager with whom he has sometimes wondered whether he or she even has an ounce of feeling in his or her body. Fortunately, such behavior has recently become more open to discussion, stronger, and in many cases, it is no longer tolerated in the workplace.
It fits completely into the current era: taking others into account. A development in which certain entrenched habits are reexamined. Whether it concerns sexism, discrimination, or structural abuse of power; social heated discussions about this are currently being held. The ability or inability to empathize plays an important role in this.
What is Empathy?
Empathy, however, goes much further than ‘taking the other into account. There is literally something calculated hidden in that term. Empathy is the ability to put yourself in other people’s shoes. Being open to the emotions, attitude, and motivation of the other person and understanding what impact your actions and behavior can have on others is also called cognitive empathy. Some people can empathize so much that they also feel another person’s emotions. (INFJ, HSP) We call this affective empathy. The term emotional intelligence is also closely related to this; the ability to recognize certain emotions in others and to deal with them appropriately.
Brené Brown, who worked for many years as a social worker, gave a now world-famous TED talk about the power of vulnerability. She wrote a book of the same name, which quickly became a bestseller. She tells (and writes) about her own insecurities and cites striking examples, studies, and observations. With this, she shows that vulnerability is not a form of weakness, but a way to create connection. And it is precisely vulnerability that lies at the basis of empathy. By recognizing your own insecurities, imperfections, and dilemmas, you will also better understand those of others and the associated emotions, Brown argues.
Especially as a manager (but also as an employee), the ability to empathize is, therefore, a nice quality. However, not everyone is born with the same dose of empathy and empathy cannot be forced. Affective empathy in particular is difficult to learn, it’s either in you or not. However, cognitive empathy is easy to develop. It mainly has to do with how you position yourself, showing genuine interest in people, seeking the connection without self-interest and manipulation, and the way you ask questions.
Tips for developing your empathic ability are many.
We have listed a few for you.
1. Get to know yourself better, do self-reflection. How do you feel and how does that influence your attitude and behavior? By recognizing yourself, your character, your habits, and your behavior, you can also better understand other people and the way people respond to you.
2. Read a lot of books and watch movies. Good literature and films let you automatically move into the motives of the characters.
3. Be open to criticism. This creates an open atmosphere in which people feel freer, mutual communication improves and others deal with criticism more easily.
4. Think first, then talk. We often tend to respond directly to the other person and have an opinion about everything. Waiting a few seconds and weighing your words can make a huge difference, especially in the workplace.
5. Ask questions, but do so on a topic you are really interested in. Don’t fake interest, people see through it quickly.
6. Listen actively. Ask open questions, summarize occasionally, keep asking questions, and share your own experiences on the subject. And above all, take the time for these kinds of conversations with colleagues. A connecting conversation cannot be done quickly.
Emotions at work
For many people, the above terms such as vulnerability and emotions may sound a bit tacky and vague. After all, at work there must be, well, work, they think. The Flemish professor of philosophy Ignaas Devisch also thinks so. He’s not a fan of the emphasis on empathy in the workplace. He sees the work floor primarily as functional and promotes distance. I personally like to disagree with him. Empathy is the necessary basic need of humans.
By the way, empathy doesn’t mean that we have to cuddle all day long, that you have to explain every argument with your partner or colleague during the quarterly results meeting or that the smallest sniffles and tears are allowed in the office. But a workplace where colleagues look out for each other and help each other on a human level and can be of support should be no more than normal in 2022.
What if this is not for you?
You are in need of some empathy around you, but you are not going to get it. Or, you yourself could never learn to empathize with others, as you have got enough problems of your own. Staying in this situation for much longer is not an option, because you will not let work affect you. Your own health is the most important.
Nowadays and with the enormous possibilities the internet offers, you can go on and make some money on the side. And who knows, you might, later on, be able to earn a full decent income and leave the corporate jungle!
Your way out!
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