Monday, August 31, 2015

Listening with Empathy

As managers and leaders, you may have to guide, and that is fine after you "seek first to understand."

Empathy is one of the most crucial elements in leadership effectiveness, due to the complexity, ambiguity, and the paradox of the world we live in. On one side, the world has become so hyperconnected and interdependent, the physical barriers such as the oceans and the mountains can no longer divide us; on the other side, due to the cognitive difference, culture diversity, information overloading, and wisdom scarcity, there are still the walls in people’s hearts and the gaps on their minds, empathy is the ability to think as if you were in the other party’s position, to gain an in-depth understanding of the thought processes behind each action and to win the hearts via mind connection based on the golden rules and profound insight. But the first step first, can you learn how to listen with empathy?

It is all about connecting as humans, whether at work or elsewhere. If we become clear about our objectives, we can use a variety of measures to address it. The first is to be clear about our own purpose in life. It is something which when we do, we lose track of time, we don't get tired or lose energy; even if we do, depending on the activity, we are happy to stretch ourselves and feel happier and satisfied by doing so. Similarly, when we listen and find out the other's purpose, identify and respect, whether we agree with it or not, be non-judgemental, then we can connect, talk about it, discuss it and many times, they will get more insight and will look at it differently and be able to fine-tune their own purpose, which they never thought about it in such a way. This is the power of a team.

Empathetic listening is a critical element of business culture. Empathy is a need for managers to be able to relate to people's feelings and bring out their potentials and develop them to be in line with the vision and mission of the organization. After all, "the people as object" thing can only bring you as far. Hard-driving, "macho" businesses that are not really interested in getting alongside their employees see empathy akin to weakness. Those that encourage empathetic listening have the opportunity to give their colleagues a greater sense of worth and in return receive a greater commitment. Listening "attentively" and actively is the greatest gift we can give to another human being. The real beauty is found in the ability to listen from your heart, inviting the speaker to explore the answers that lie within their own hearts and minds. However, due to the rush and fast pace of modern life, people interrupt and seek to solve the problem, often before they have heard enough to understand what is being said and whether anything is truly being asked of us beyond just listening.

As managers and leaders, you may have to guide, and that is fine after you "seek first to understand." The ability to listen with empathy depends on your personal preferences. The step towards empathy is to focus on the speaker rather than seeking the meaning within your own frame of reference to how your own needs and goals can be satisfied. To take in information without bias and then review it in its entirety rather than interactively. Listening with empathy is a good description of passive listening that you have to incorporate into your thoughts. The practice of seeing people as people is gaining momentum as organizations are starting to notice the importance of human capital development spurs their growth to the next level.

The loss of listening with empathy may be a side effect of training. The lack of empathy is caused by the homogeneity of leadership setting. Today, many leaders have sympathy, but lack empathy, they intend to help and manage well, however, sometimes, it goes in the opposite direction. Both of these are major challenges to start with listening with empathy.


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