Donna's blog on coaching, leadership, and life

Archive for August, 2017

Practicing empathy when frustrations are high

I was inspired to write this brief post after a business associate expressed that she’d like to learn how to be empathetic when frustrations are high. I thought that was a brilliant goal. And a hard one to reach. It got me thinking and this is what I came up with………

People who are striving to be more empathetic at work can generally find small ways to practice. They can ask more questions at the beginning of a conversation to better understand where someone is coming from. They understand when someone who is grieving is not at their best. They may reach out and offer support to someone who is struggling with a specific work issue.

It’s difficult to practice empathy at work with someone who frustrates us over time. When we’re focused on our own feelings we’re less likely to have a genuine interest in understanding others. We tend to judge and defend. We’re less equipped to influence or experience collaborative results.

It’s even more difficult when our buttons get pushed in the moment. We have an immediate physical reaction. Our heartbeat increases. Our palms sweat. We become defensive, resentful, angry or frustrated. Being empathetic to what the other party is experiencing in that moment is near impossible. We’re way too busy inside our own heads!

Not impossible though. One effective approach is to better prepare for those sensitive meetings or conversations. Prepare to tap into your self-awareness. Commit to noticing your sudden physical reactions. And when you do….Stop, Probe, and Listen. Prepare to learn more before responding. One hallmark of empathy is considering others’ feelings. Perhaps the other person is not equipped to receive your idea in the moment. Maybe a calmer conversation in a follow-up meeting will be more effective.

Choose a specific upcoming meeting or conversation and practice. Increase your contributions, influence and results.