Empathy as your superpower

Empathy as your superpower

One of the world’s most influential psychoanalysts, Heinz Kohut, suggested that at the psychological level, people have two essential needs: to be understood and to be admired. The most fundamental need, however, is to be understood.

Empathy allows you to understand not just what people are facing and feeling, but also what they need from you. It’s what we all want from our most important relationships – to be understood.

The power of empathy lies in creating a common ground within the relationship. It is the emotional glue that creates interpersonal connection. As empathy is a skill – we can practice it.

There are 3 common things that empaths focus on – are you practicing daily?

  • Listening: The key to effective communication – both verbal and nonverbal. Body language, eye contact, giving the space for the other to describe.
  • Curiosity: Be genuinely curious about other people. Suspend judgement and develop an attitude to post questions to the other to enable to communicate their experience.
  • Emotional connection: Sensing what the other person feels without them necessarily saying so. Look for all the emotional signs of what they are experiencing – build a bridge to connect emotionally as a leader.

Neuroscience tells us that the Insula, Hippocampus and Amygdala are all involved in helping us pick this up. Actively listening and reflecting the others thoughts and feelings deepens your impact as a leader and ability to influence behaviour and performance.

Empathy contributes to positive relationships and organisational cultures. It also drives results. Empathy may not be a new skill, but it has a new level of criticality, and the fresh research makes it especially clear how empathy is the leadership competency to develop and demonstrate now and in the future.

Practically, leaders can ask themselves two key questions before responding. First, you should consider someone else’s thoughts through cognitive empathy – “if I were in their position, what would I be thinking right now? Secondly, you can focus on their feelings, using emotional empathy – “Being in their position would make me feel …….” You will be at the top of your empath game when you not only consider others, but when you express your concerns and inquire about the others challenges directly, before listening actively to their response. You don’t have to be a mental health expert to demonstrate that you care and are paying attention.

Your job as a leader is to demonstrate that you are committed to understanding others. Now……go practice!

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