In an article published by Forbes, Corporate Coach Fleet Maull states that ‘there are many different leadership styles and qualities that make a good leader, but people tend to be most attracted to and influenced by leaders who are empathetic.
He goes on to say that ‘in a study by BI Norwegian Business School found that employees were more committed and efficient on the job when their employers displayed increased self-awareness and insight. As leaders, listening is one of the key skills we use to give people the experience of our empathic presence and make them feel heard. But to give others our full attention and become an empathetic leader, we first need to be empathetic with ourselves.
Start With Self-Empathy
How we feel about and relate to ourselves directly impacts how we relate to the world and interact with others. We tend to place the blame for difficult feelings, such as anger or jealousy, on the actions of other people or our surroundings. Most people assume that our feelings are the result of other people or external circumstances. However, our feelings actually arise based on whether we perceive our needs as being met.
When we perceive our basic human needs, including our need to be acknowledged and respected, as being addressed, we’re content. When we perceive that they aren’t being met, or that they are being under-addressed, that’s when feelings of frustration, anger, sadness and jealousy emerge.
Validating our own needs and having the predilection to validate the needs of others is an important part of becoming an empathic leader. Being able to look people in the eye and say, “Of course you need respect/clarity/to be heard,” is the ground of empathic communication.’
My thoughts: Self awareness and emotional development is key to being empathic. How can you understand others’ feelings, if you don’t acknowledge and try to understand your own.
In trying to find empathy towards clinicians who I felt had let my child down in hospital and who I felt hid the truth after she died, was, to say the least, one of the toughest things I have done. However, it was also one of the most empowering and compassionate things I have done. Compassionate to them, but also to me!
How did I achieve this, well through being self-aware. What did it feel like to be scared of the future? As I was at that time. I used my feeling of fear to tap into and to imagine the fears that the clinicians may be feeling faced with questions and investigation. It enabled me to see them as being similar to me, vulnerable and lost in a difficult and emotive situation. In absence of many months of not being allowed any contact with them, all I could do was imagine, but that process, broke down my more blinkered view of the circumstances and allowed myself to open my mind to possible reasons behind behaviours, that in turn, gave me a human connection with the clinicians and indeed
This process did not dilute my objectives, which was truth and candour from the hospital, as acknowledging certain possible feelings; it did not equate to agreeing with actions, but it did allow me to travel a route of more understanding and compassion and in turn, create more peaceful mindset for me. Without self-awareness and my own emotional development that many years of counselling training and psychology had aided me with, this process may not have been so beneficial to my mental health.
This is something we are all able to attain with understanding, honesty with ourselves and practice. Empathy is not experiencing the same as another or indeed swamping ourselves with the others feelings, but hooking into a feeling that we have had that is as close as we feel we can get, to be able to imagine what is being felt and what is needed, and a drive to respond if this is something that you are in a position to do.
Leaders have the ability to make a great difference to the everyday lives of their staff but so often don’t acknowledge their own feelings of frustration, inadequacy, feeling heard, feeling threatened, stressed or fearful, making it therefore much harder to recognise those feelings in others.
Our feelings always impact on our behaviours and not being aware of them, can mean we become blinkered and avoid empathic and emotionally focused thinking to avoid our own feelings.
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