What does the word Empathy mean? The Oxford Dictionary defines the word “Empathy” as “The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” Empathy is walking the path of another person. Empathy actually means, thoughtfully considering the other person’s feelings and understanding from that person’s perspective. A leader must be able to sense and understand the viewpoints of everyone on his team.
The basic requirement for Empathy is to identify the Common Ground. Once the common ground is established, it gives the person an opportunity to walk in the other person’s shoes. Stephen R. Covey states “Nothing is more validating and affirming than feeling understood. And the moment a person begins feeling understood, that person becomes far more open to influence and change. Empathy is to the heart what air is to the body.” We should never make assumptions and must have the courage to ask questions to understand from the other person’s perspective.
Daniel Goleman in an article titled “What Makes a Leader?” in HBR that was published in June 1996 writes that “Leaders have always needed empathy to develop and keep good people.” He states that empathy plays a key role in the retention of talent, particularly in today’s information economy. He writes that leaders with empathy do more than sympathize with people around them. They use their knowledge to improve their companies in subtle but important ways.
Here are some powerful quotes from various people that emphasize the Importance and the Power of Empathy.
- A prerequisite to empathy is simply paying attention to the person in pain. – Daniel Goleman
- Empathy is about standing in someone else’s shoes, feeling with his or her heart, seeing with his or her eyes. Not only is empathy hard to outsource and automate, but it makes the world a better place. – Daniel H. Pink
- When you show deep empathy toward others, their defensive energy goes down, and positive energy replaces it. That’s when you can get more creative in solving problems. – Stephen Covey
- While leaders spend considerable time and effort trying to envision markets and pushing out innovation, empathy can often generate simple, yet breakthrough ideas. – John Gerzema
- When you listen with empathy to another person, you give that person psychological air. – Stephen R. Covey
- The path to gaining respect is paved with knowledge and empathy. – Evan Brown
- Empathy is the faculty to resonate with the feelings of others. When we meet someone who is joyful, we smile. When we witness someone in pain, we suffer in resonance with his or her suffering. – Matthieu Ricard
- Anyone who has experienced a certain amount of loss in their life has empathy for those who have experienced loss. – Anderson Cooper
- You don’t have to accept the invitation to get angry. Instead, practice forgiveness, empathy and encouragement. – Dan Fallon
- Empathy is born out of the old biblical injunction ‘Love the neighbor as thyself.’ – George McGovern