What is empathy?

What is empathy?

Empathy is usually defined as the ability to feel other people’s emotions and put yourself in their shoes. It may seem simple, but there are times when being able to get out of your usual mental structure to understand others’ when making decisions can be complicated. And it gets even harder the more the other’s thinking differs from our beliefs or motivations.

Types of empathy

Affective empathy is linked to the feelings we receive from other people. If we see someone happy, we can understand everything is going well and it is easy to share that joy.

Cognitive empathy, on the other hand, refers to the ability to identify and understand those emotions. Why is that person happy? Should he or she be happy? How can I help that person in regards to their emotions?

Empathy is inevitably integrated into our human nature and we also shared it with other animals. Studies suggest that certain neuronal connections are activated, as a mirror, when we detect certain emotions in other people.

The key to helping those around us

Co-workers, customers, suppliers … Developing empathy is a key aspect for your sales, business development or customer support teams to succeed.

Excessive empathy, however, can become a risk to meet your goals if no limits are set. It is important to keep these boundaries in mind when preparing the teams’ training.

The benefits of empathy

The following are just a couple advantages, but they are worth many:

  • Empathy is contagious. If we are empathic, it is easy to create an identical work climate (more positive, with less medical leaves, etc …).
  • It reduces prejudices.

How to develop empathy

Here are some recommendations to work on that:

  • Listen actively Ask, do research. The answer is in the other person. Then you will find solutions thanks to your experience.
  • Adopt the role of the person you’re talking to. Try to find out his/her motivations.
  • Remember that you deal with people. Put a face and a name to your colleagues and clients, so it will be easier to understand their behavior.
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