I found the title of this piece as I was reading some articles on the Emotional Intelligence Magazine (EIM) website, and it struck me. Many people don’t truly stay silent to listen. When having a conversation with others, some people’s minds wonder (we are human after all), some people are figuring out what they are going to say in response – either how they will combat what that person said or maybe even how they can help solve their problem (especially if you are in a service business), some people may try to tune the other person out because it’s the same ole conversation / compliant, just a different day, or some people don’t care enough to stop and listen. Whatever the case may be (and I’m sure there are other reasons), we can agree that active listening is a true talent to learn and it’s part of the emotional intelligence leadership skill of empathy.
Empathy is critical for another person to be heard and understood; these two needs (to be heard and understood) are at the core of being a human. I was interviewed for a publication about resiliency and one of the questions they asked me, “If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.” Here was my response, “MORE PEOPLE PRACTICING EMPATHY — I’m shouting this in all caps so to speak. If people could stop and listen to another’s perspective/belief/thoughts/feelings, appreciate/recognize what they are expressing, and then articulate their understanding of that person’s perspective/belief/thoughts/feelings in their own words, wouldn’t we be in a better place? I have a class devoted to training on this skill because it is so imperative. Many people don’t quite understand what empathy is; sometimes, it’s confused with sympathy, sometimes people think if they use empathy then they are agreeing or approving, and some people think empathy is about being nice. It’s not any of those things. Empathy is simply listening, appreciating, and articulating someone else’s perspective/belief/thoughts/feelings. Let’s start this movement ASAP!”1
These two needs (to be heard and understood) are also required for employees to be engaged in the workplace. Such an important leadership skill takes awareness, knowledge of how to do it, and action or practice. It’s a true culture movement to have everyone practice empathy everyday – with their teams, cross functional departments, customers, vendors, etc. Here’s some additional information about and tips on empathy:
Maria Ross, author of the book, "The Empathy Edge," was on a podcast and noted that there’s a “business case related to empathy involving more profitability, higher engagement, and customer loyalty. Also, all above = being more successful as a leader.”2 She also said that empathy is “seeing the world through someone’s eyes, gathering multiple perspectives, and using information to make bigger decisions and where people have a stake in decisions – this is connected to: higher retention and higher productivity. It’s not about “pleasing” everyone or catering to everyone’s needs.”2
The EIM article I mentioned at the beginning had some great information around empathy. Here’s an excerpt, “Dr. Brené Brown indicates that empathy is about understanding and connecting to the emotions around an experience. It is feeling with someone, not feeling for them; this is where empathy can be blurred with sympathy. Sympathy often involves pity for another person, which can be insulting as it implies we are outpacing in some way. Empathy does not involve pity and requires us to suspend all judgment of another’s viewpoint as being good or bad or seeing another’s feelings as being invalid. While we may disagree with why someone feels a certain way about a given situation, empathy teaches us to connect with shared emotions. I.e., “I, too, know what it’s like to feel overwhelmed, sad, etc.” It’s this disconnect in understanding and acceptance that often leads to incivility, disrespect, and a lack of empathy, especially when controversial topics and strong belief systems are involved.” 3
In EIM’s January magazine, Tips for Improving Your Listening Skills were shared:
“Take Notes: Taking notes while you are listening will help you better comprehend and retain the information.
Create a Mind Map: Creating visual representations of ideas can be helpful in understanding and remembering what has been said.
Ask Questions: Asking questions during conversations helps ensure that you fully understand the topic being discussed and encourages active participation in the discussion
Monitor Your Thoughts: Pay attention to how your thoughts may interfere with your listening ability, such as worrying or making assumptions about what is being said before it’s finished being expressed.
Summarize Key Points: During or after a conversation, practice summarizing key points to measure your understanding of the subject matter.
Repeat What You Hear: When someone speaks to you, repeat their words to ensure that there is no misunderstanding about what was said and confirm comprehension on both ends.
Look for Non-Verbal Cues: Listening involves more than just picking out words – look for body language cues from those speaking, which could provide additional context clues.
Practice Active Listening Skills: By demonstrating attentiveness when others are speaking, you can help create an atmosphere of open communication.
Don’t Interrupt: Respect the speaker’s thoughts and ideas by allowing them to finish before offering your own opinion.
Show Your Interest: Paying attention to the speaker lets them know that you care about what they are saying and encourages them to keep talking.
Avoid Distractions: Don’t let yourself get sidetracked by external events or internal thoughts, and focus on the conversation.
Make Connections: Making connections between what is being said and prior knowledge can help you better understand the information being presented.
Don’t Jump to Conclusions: Avoid making assumptions or drawing conclusions before you have heard the whole story.
Listen for Feelings: Not all communication is about facts and figures; pay attention to the feelings behind the words being expressed.
Reflect on What Has Been Said: Summarizing and reflecting on what has been said is a great way to ensure that you have heard and understood the conversation correctly.
Other helpful tips include suspending judgment, pausing before responding, and responding thoughtfully. Practicing these skills will not only help you become a better listener, but it’ll also strengthen your relationships.” 4
This is a lot of information about empathy – remember each person / each organization should take baby steps everyday to strengthen this skill. Leadership and culture are not overnight processes. To assess where you and your organization are in your employee engagement culture journey, download my “Culture Pulse: Employee Engagement Questionnaire” here: https://www.badeauconsulting.com/culturepulseeequestionnaire
Need someone to dig into leadership work with you? Reach out for coaching or consulting here: https://www.badeauconsulting.com/
I look forward to providing monthly pulse points to help you stay up to date with how the workplace culture scene is evolving.
About Jaclyn T. Badeau, CPA, CGMA, MBA, EQ Certified
Jaclyn Badeau is the Founder and President of Badeau Consulting. She specializes in employee engagement initiatives that help companies inspire confidence back into their team for innovation and growth. Jaclyn’s background in cultivating high performing teams, delivering coaching and mentoring, serving as a global business risk advisor, and facilitating internal and external leadership training to a global workforce gives her the unique perspective of what employees need and what works. She is also a multi award recipient and passionate about sharing her expertise and knowledge in volunteer advisory and leadership positions roles for many associations and not-for-profits.
About Pulse Point
Pulse Point is a monthly blog to stay up to date with how the workplace culture scene is evolving.
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2 “Empathy Edge: Maria Ross - Wisdom From The Top with Guy Raz” Podcast Episode #39 June 29, 2022
4 https://www.ei-magazine.com/magazine – January newsletter email / magazine