We've all been in working situations where emotions are high. We're only human, after all! Showing empathy at work can be hugely beneficial to you and your co-workers.
Empathy, by definition, is taking time to understand and appreciate other people's emotions and challenges. As you can imagine, everyone you come across is on their own journey, facing their own demons. While we might not always completely understand every single person we meet, we can practice empathy.
In the workplace, this is crucial to help us build effective relationships. In fact, I listed it as one of the best transferable skills interviewers look for.
On the face of things, it’s easy to assume that simply ‘being good’ at your job is enough to get you through the day. However, we all have to work together – and in fact, an empathetic core is likely to help you build strong relationships for the rest of your career.
But where do you start when learning to be more empathetic? Let's dive in.
Why Is Empathy At Work So Important?
Empathy is a skill. Some people are born highly empathetic, while others take the time to develop interpersonal listening over the years.
We seek empathy in the workplace simply for the fact that work is stressful! When work piles up, it's easy to start feeling overwhelmed, or even become burned out. It's important to effectively manage your stress so you don't reach that tipping point.
By being empathetic towards co-workers, and even competitors, you're showing that you are more than just another face in the crowd. You're practicing clearer communication.
Work can (and will) get frustrating sometimes – but many problems are solvable through active listening and communication!
Empathy Is A Trait And A Skill
Empathy is one of many essential soft skills you'll need to show in everyday working life. Soft skills, such as empathy, patience and gratefulness, all go a long way in and outside of the office.
In your job search, recruiters don’t want to hire someone who only has requisite hard skills on paper. They want to hire someone who works well with others.
Empathetic candidates will likely have an edge in their search, even if they only show rudimentary skills. Why? Because they are willing and eager to work with a team. And while you can teach hard skills on the job, empathy comes from within.
If you’re worried you might not be empathetic enough, take a step back and evaluate how you're reacting to the situation. A willingness to learn and be your absolute best is a step in the right direction.
Even better, of course, is the fact that training yourself to be empathetic isn’t actually that hard. Providing you’re open and receptive, you’ll find yourself connecting with people in the workplace easier than ever before. That’s beneficial to everyone!
8 Ways You Can Practice Empathy At Work
The brilliant news is you won't need any tools or qualifications to start on the road towards being more empathetic.
Natural empathy takes time to master, but only a few minutes to start practicing. All you need is one good example of empathy at work to get started.
Here are a few tips and tricks I've found work wonders in the workplace:
#1: Show others that you are listening to them. Actively repeat back their concerns, maintain eye contact, and wait for them to finish speaking. We all have a need to be heard and understood!
#2: Leave politics at the door. Honestly – I can't stress this enough! You don't have to agree with someone's opinion to be empathetic. It's just a matter of hearing them out.
#3: Keep people close. It's impossible to be friends with everyone, but taking time to appreciate others on a personal level is vital.
#4: Be more than just another co-worker. Be open and honest – though, of course, there are boundaries. Talk openly about problems you share and work together wherever possible.
#5: Transparency also means being authentic. Own your mistakes. Showing weakness is, in many ways, key to showing empathy – you can balance it with showing strength when necessary.
#6: Consider how you would feel. A huge step you can take towards being empathetic is to appreciate how you, yourself, feel in stressful situations. How would you want people to approach you at work?
#7: Separate yourself from your work. Being able to show mindfulness, and to take stock of your own feelings, will help you to separate high emotion and stress from everyday work. That will also put you in a stronger position to help others. Use your breaks wisely!
#8: Learn to accept people – no matter who they are. It’s true – we all have preferences when it comes to different ‘types’ of people! However, a strong, empathetic move in the workplace is to see beyond someone’s strengths and weaknesses and accept for who they are. Simple.
Why Empathy At Work Matters Long-Term
Empathy at work is more than just important for your own progress. It can help you communicate with and understand your team and clients better, too!
Interpersonal clashes and miscommunication can cause serious damage to working relationships. The best way to avoid thst is, of course, to try a little empathy.
Building relationships when applying for jobs, and once hired, is pivotal to your future success. What’s more, it connects you with people you genuinely like and respect. No one wants to feel isolated – especially in the workplace!
It is a proven fact that we all work better when we are happy and fulfilled. Considering that we are social animals, too – the key to a kinder society starts with individual, empathetic effort.
Why not put a few of the tips above into practice when you head into the office next? You never know, you might make a friend!