Digging into empathy

we all make it.png

If emotional intelligence (EQ) is a key skill for what makes a leader. A little search of this website and previous emails made me realise that I have written very little on this topic specifically and this was a great chance to address that.

Empathy is one of the elements of EQ and no-one explains it better than Brené Brown. Watch this short video to understand more.

She describes 4 elements of empathy. 

  • Perspective taking

  • Staying out of judgement

  • Recognising the emotions of others

  • Communicating that you've recognised that

It is connecting and it makes us vulnerable. This video is one of my favourites that illustrates empathy in action. 

This article gives another perspective to empathy. That there are two ways empathy can be applied. You can imagine the situation from that persons perspective, or you can imagine yourself in that situation - taking on the emotion of the situation as if it was you. The article agrees on the importance of empathy but makes the connection with the potential for burnout and stress if we make it personal. It highlights those in healthcare can be particularly at risk of this. 

"Empathy is necessary — but perhaps it’s time we start thinking about it a little differently, focusing on what the other person is going through without inserting our hypothetical selves into the same situation".

I think Brené Brown would argue you need to make that personal connection for it to be authentic and real. So here's the thing then. We need to connect, expose ourselves and be vulnerable in order to connect and show empathy. We also need to recognise that this will have an impact on us personally and we need to know how to recognise that and look after ourselves in the process. This role makes to two other elements of emotional intelligence; self awareness and self management. Check this article out if you need to work on building your emotional vocabulary. 

In her latest book Brené adds a fifth element to empathy - that of mindfulness or paying attention. This fifth element addresses the need to connect and be self aware. We cannot ruminate or get stuck with those emotions, we need to pay attention so we are not swept away with the negative feelings. 

My highlight this week was reading in this book  

"and if you want to call these 'soft skills' after you've tried putting them into practice - go for it. I dare you"