Developing Empathy In A Busy Business World

(By Loyd Ford) One of the calls I received this last week was from a major market radio personality who really wanted to know how we could put more empathy in the management of talent. After some thought, I decided to write a little bit about creating empathy today. It’s never been more important than it is now in our society and in the radio business.

Of course, after 2020, everyone can use more empathy. You’ve seen these athletes talk about mental health. Why should it be different where you work? Here’s a hint: It isn’t different. People need encouragement, help, caring. If you are a boss, a manager, a leader, there’s even more responsibility on you in every situation to show empathy because very serious things are happening to your employees. The best employees are those who are supported and receive empathy.

How do you get to empathy in you own busy schedule?

  • Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. If something isn’t happening to you, chances are pretty good you are not impacted like the person having the experience. That means you are most likely to have to take an extra step to get to empathy. It’s easy to think or even say, “This isn’t important” or “Just do it my way.” I always say, “Be kinder than you have to be.” I think we need to sometimes take a beat and remember that. No matter what is happening, you probably don’t know all the things co-workers are facing. It’s not just what happens to them at work that impacts them.
  • Make a strong effort to put people and their feelings first. The best managers and co-workers show concern. Develop a habit of asking people, “How are you?” or “What can I do for you?” This is a great way to show real support and concern.
  • Use compassionate words to show you see how the other person feels. Communication challenges today often start because many people don’t acknowledge the other person’s feelings. Acknowledging is recognizing the importance of something. So for example, someone says “I hate this policy.” Acknowledging this by saying, “Why do you hate it?” or “I’m sorry to hear that. How can we make it better?”
  • Make it a significant part of your philosophy to ask questions consistently. Questions open people up to contribute dialog. When someone is encouraged to share, especially a personal problem, asking questions encourages them to share more. Ask meaningful questions that make them feel safe to talk with you.
  • Really engage. When someone shares a significant life event or even a big frustration and you respond with something like “I see” or “Ok,” your response indicates that you are closed off or…not involved. If you want to show empathy, you have to learn to spend more time really engaged. It will make a big difference to the person you are talking with.
  • Don’t just phone it in. When you really engage, your speech pattern is robust and builds rapport.
  • When someone shares a personal fact, reciprocate by sharing a personal fact of your own. If they make eye contact, you make eye contact. If they look away from you, look away and give them a little space. Take the time to slow down and really care about their feelings.
  • Don’t rush over things to get to the ‘next step.’ Our world is busy (especially in radio). You often see someone share something personal and the person they are talking to kind of jumps to the next step in the conversation. Slow down and deal with the personal. Make the person you are talking to a priority.
  • Don’t judge. Judgment shuts things down. It makes people pull back from you. This is especially true if you don’t even take the time to really hear from them.

Bonus. Show real emotional support. Take the time to encourage them. Let them know that no matter what happens, they are important to you and you are there for them.

Empathy gives you more power, more energy and grows your influence. It’s easy to say, “Think about others.” With consistent effort you can become known as someone people seek out because you are exceptional at being empathetic, encouraging others and influential.

It’s so easy to just keep moving, but adding the skill of empathy can help you grow your value to others, your value to your company and will simply make you a better person to be around.

Loyd Ford can be reached at 864.448.4169 or [email protected].