Empathy is the cornerstone of emotional intelligence, a skill that opens the door to relationship success and strengthens our well-being and overall quality of life. I discuss these benefits in my book, The Power of Emotion.
THE POWER OF EMOTION | CHAPTER 23 | OVERVIEW
What is Empathy, and Why Do We Need it?
Are You an Empathetic Person?
Empathy is considered the foundation of emotional intelligence because it involves understanding and sharing the feelings of others. Emotional intelligence encompasses the ability to recognize, understand, and manage both our own emotions and the emotions of others. Empathy allows us to connect with others on an emotional level, which is crucial for effective communication, building relationships, and demonstrating compassion. By being empathetic, we can better understand others' perspectives, respond appropriately to their emotions, and navigate social interactions with greater sensitivity and understanding. Empathy forms a fundamental building block for emotional intelligence by fostering greater self-awareness, social awareness, and interpersonal skills.
I worked with numerous individuals lacking empathy and emotional intelligence during my career. Some were my colleagues, supervisors, and employees. Without a doubt, all were challenging to work with.
What Happens When Someone Lacks Empathy?
Individuals lacking empathy can have a significant impact on those around them. Here are a few ways their lack of empathy can affect others:
- Strained relationships: Without empathy, it becomes challenging to understand and connect with the emotions and experiences of others. This can strain personal and professional relationships, as empathy is crucial for building trust, providing support, and fostering meaningful connections.
- Communication difficulties: Empathy plays a vital role in effective communication. When someone lacks empathy, they may struggle to listen attentively, validate others' emotions, or respond appropriately. This can lead to misunderstandings, conflicts, and breakdowns in communication.
- Emotional disconnect: People without empathy may struggle to recognize or understand the emotions of others. This can create a sense of emotional disconnect, making it difficult for them to provide comfort, support, or empathy in times of need. It may leave others feeling invalidated or unheard.
- Reduced cooperation and teamwork: Empathy is crucial for successful teamwork and collaboration. Individuals lacking empathy may have difficulty understanding the needs and perspectives of their team members. This can hinder effective cooperation, compromise, and problem-solving within groups.
- Lack of support: Empathy enables us to offer support and care to others during challenging times. When empathy is absent, individuals may not provide the emotional support or validation that others require, leaving them feeling isolated or neglected.
We Can Increase Our Empathy
We develop empathy by perceiving others' feelings, understanding their emotions, and utilizing that understanding to relate to them more effectively. The emphasis must be on "emotion," connecting with how others feel.
Without question, individuals who lack empathy will struggle to build relationships. The good news is we can develop empathy skills. Some individuals are born with keen empathetic skills that they practice regularly, but fundamental empathy skills are only innate for some. Adults can grow their empathetic skills to advance productive relationships with others.
How to Develop Empathy
First, people must realize the need to strengthen and build their empathy skills. They must understand it is for their improvement and the organization's greater good. There must be considerable buy-in to affect change in their behaviour. Finally, they must practise their new skills to recognize how it positively impacts their relationships and conflict resolution.
Without question, considerable skills build empathy and relationships. You can find many more strategies to develop emotional intelligence and empathy in my book, The Power of Emotion.
This article was originally published on October 19, 2021, and has been updated (June 2023).
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