During this time of unprecedented pain, brought about by the Coronavirus pandemic and Brexit uncertainty, people are looking for leadership that this pain is going to end soon. An empathetic message for people, often under-represented by gender, race, and disability and who are most at risk from this pain, is very necessary for the healing process to begin.
I have very personal knowledge of how important empathy is and how it has impacted my own life. Growing up in the UK and in Nigeria was about survival from the physical illness of sickle cell anaemia and the corresponding mental stress that accompanied it. Not until my family, friends, academic institutions and employers saw what was needed and how to support my aspirations did the concept of empathy really take hold. It empowered me to overcome the inadequate stereotypes of race, gender and disability, all issues over which I had no control over. This energy helped me to achieve in academics and the corporate world of investment banking and entrepreneurship.
For a true understanding the role empathy plays in daily interactions with individuals or wider groups, clarity in the meaning of the word is so very important. What empathy is not is sympathy, which is the ability to understand and support others with compassion or sensitivity. Empathy is the ability to step into someone else’s position in life, be aware of their feelings and understand their needs.
Recent surveys on empathy have found that approximately 80% thought that an empathetic organisation inspires more employees to be motivated and CEO’s surveyed agreed at about the same percentage level that an empathetic workplace has a positive impact on business performance, motivating workers, and increasing productivity.
There are a few rules that are absolutely required for empathy to take hold in your life and for the halo of goodwill that will follow to show positive results.
This means that the trend of cancel culture, barriers to personal expression and mob thinking must be resisted without exception. Freedom of speech empowers individuals to learn from others their feelings and needs.
When this happens through empathy, trust is built between people or teams in an organisation. Positive things begin to happen when trust is built. Empathetic people listen attentively to others and put their complete focus on the person that is being communicated with.
Positive action can be grouped into the message that is shared and then how the objectives of that message are implemented. Be careful in messaging because frankly, words do matter. No matter how sensible a topic may seem, you must carry that person along with you or the intention of showing empathy is lost.
Remember that people are indeed unique. Prepare yourself for a difficult challenge or perhaps even hostility to your messages or implementation plans.
Empathy is a human trait. Humans use all senses to make informed decisions. The pandemic has brought in remote working and this has created the need for a new skill set of interacting with people from afar.
Remember that empathy must start with individuals showing that they: like people, enjoy working with and helping others and value people as individuals. Listen, be open to change and convince others that by being empathetic, the work-place will see performance improving.
This is what I do on a daily basis as CEO of Painless Universal. I founded the company to work with key decision makers in corporations and governments so they can be successful in implementing quality of life agendas. Its mission is simply to help individuals find their joy in life.