Empathy is about standing in someone else’s shoes, feeling with his or her heart, seeing with his or her eyes. Not only is empathy hard to outsource and automate, but it makes the world a better place.” – Daniel Pink
Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, is one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world. When someone wrote about their negative view of the work environment at Amazon in the New York Times, saying that management wasn’t accommodating to its employees, Bezos recanted with an internal memo to all of his employees. In this memo, Jeff made sure to say, “…our tolerance for any such lack of empathy needs to be zero,” and for good reason. Bezos understands just how important empathy can be.
I place an emphasis on this memo, not only because it shows the importance that Bezos places on the standard of empathy, but because it shows that companies choose to either create a culture of empathy or they don’t. So, how can leaders create a more empathetic environment, even if they feel they are not wired to be empathetic? Here are three ways that anyone can show more empathy, starting right now:
First, focus on your listening skills.
If you aren’t being pushed to show empathy, it’s probably because you aren’t spending enough time listening to legitimate problems. I mean, I get it. It’s easy to be trapped by the four walls of your office, and when this happens, time isn’t being spent listening to others. It’s in these times that most effort is being spent attempting to eliminate piles of paperwork. This routine can create an imaginary world where your problems are the only ones that matter, but we all know that selfishness creates a terrible environment to work in. When we take the time to be present and listen to the need of others, we can only then know what needs to be done.
When you show deep empathy toward others, their defensive energy goes down, and positive energy replaces it. That’s when you can get more creative in solving problems.” – Stephen Covey
Second, stop using the excuse of, “They didn’t come to me first.”
When you have empathy you can feel when someone is having a bad day. It’s also the ability to see a need and then having the push to fill that need. If you keep waiting for others to show empathy first, then you’ll be waiting for a very long time to show off the power that is found in empathy. Begin embracing empathy, and change the world because of it.
Empathy is the starting point for creating a community and taking action. It’s the impetus for creating change.” – Max Carver
Third, create deeper relationships, and then be curious enough to ask other people how they see the world.
To create deeper relationships, you must pass on judging others and buy-in to the idea of vulnerability. You can’t expect people to open up to you if you won’t first commit to opening up to other people about yourself. People are important, and they’ll also need help from time to time. Being proactive in building relationships allows you to already be there for people when they need you.To create deeper relationships, you must pass on judging others & buy-in to vulnerability. Click To Tweet
…If you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.” – Daniel Goleman
All of this is important because harnessing empathy and using it in your business will only better the environment for your employees, and will help produce a better product and experience for consumers. Empathy is necessary because it allows you to see things from the perspective of others and allows you to make your best work even better. One of the biggest benefits that comes from empathy is that it keeps you going, even when the going gets tough, because you truly care about the outcome, and you genuinely want to help people. And if you don’t feel you are naturally inclined to show empathy, Roman Krznaric, author of Empathy: Why It Matters, and How to Get It, says that you can learn to be empathetic.
Leslie Decker says
Great article, Adam! You really spoke to the need, solution and process. Management should be interested, because empathy in the workplace produces the great by-product of employee loyalty.