How can you benefit from the global empathy movement?
Building empathy into the culture of your workplace or family
Far from being a social media trend or another phrase for your next game of buzzword bingo, ‘empathy’ is being discussed seriously in a wide range of environments all around the globe. From the board-tables of Fortune 500 companies, to the classrooms of kindergarten students, building a culture of empathy from the ground up is a key concern for anyone who has some level of responsibility for shaping society as we know it today.
In this article, we’re going to cover some of the basics of what is a huge movement, along with simple steps you can take to bring more empathy into your work/family environment straight away.
When did this movement start?
As Dr Peter Breggin notes in his article, Empathetic Therapy: an Emerging Field, in 1960s two bold psychiatrists, R D Laing and Aaron Esterson, broke with established convention by suggesting that people diagnosed with schizophrenia do not suffer from a disease. They instead believed such people were in fact facing an existential crisis, caused in part by severe emotional trauma within their families of origin.
Psychiatrists like Carl Rogers, who was one of the founding fathers of the humanistic approach to psychology, was also an early proponent of the empathy movement.
And today, we have psychiatrists like Professor Dan Siegel, who are at the cutting edge of this global movement, demonstrating empathy’s innumerable benefits through the science of interpersonal neurobiology.
What is empathy?
Empathy is far more than being able to sympathise. Sympathy is understanding how another feels, or understanding their situation. It is the ability to virtually experience the situation another person is in. It enables a person to know what another’s situation feels like, thereby enabling them to offer precisely the sort of compassion and support that the other person might need.
Empathy in the workplace
In a recent whitepaper by the Center for Creative Leadership, it was discovered that empathy is an essential quality for today’s leaders, as workforces are more international than ever before and teams are often geographically spread out across the globe.
What’s more, according to the Businessolver Workplace Empathy Monitor, despite the fact that people want more empathy in action in their workplace, many workers feel their organisations could do better, as seen by these statistics:
- 85% of employees agree that their employer undervalues empathy
- 30% of employees don’t believe the company they work for is empathetic
- 51% of people feel that organisations and companies as a whole aren’t empathetic
- 60% of people would be willing to take slightly less pay if their employer showed empathy
- 78% of employees would leave an employer for equal pay if the other company was more empathetic
- 92% of employees would be more likely to stay with a company if they empathised with their needs
Empathy at home
Increased empathy at home is also sure to improve the quality of life for yourself and those around you. While we’ve got some tips on how to build more empathy in your day in the section below, when it comes to your family specifically, we’ve got a few extra tips.
Remember, it sometimes requires you to do less, not more. So refrain from judging, criticising, offering opinions or fixing problems. Remember that feelings are never wrong – and that what your family wants more than anything else, is simply to spend quality, undivided time with you.
Tips to start building more empathy into your day
Building more empathy into your day and the environment around you is actually quite easy. As we’ve said before, it might require you to do less, as opposed to doing more!
- Actively listen to people by providing summaries of what they’ve said, when gaps naturally appear in the conversation.
- While listening to someone, don’t anticipate what they’re about to say next or make assumptions.
- Refrain from interrupting someone who is speaking.
- Seek to understand people, not necessarily to agree.
- In conversations, find examples of where you felt the same, and share those examples.
- When relating to someone with your stories, look to relate – not to one-up the other person or compete with your idea.
- If you are in a group of people, notice the people who aren’t speaking up and try to provide them with opportunities to speak.
- Take time to formulate your ideas – if you need more time before you speak or act, then communicate that need.
Are you looking to create a more mindful or empathetic workplace?
Our team is well-equipped to service the needs of organisations and large corporations. We work in collaboration with employees, human resources teams and occupational health providers to offer a range of mental wellbeing assessments, advice and on-going support.
If you would like to discuss how to improve the interpersonal dynamics at your organisation, then please do contact us for a confidential chat.