Work on Your Empathy

Jun 08, 2020

Have you ever had anyone tell you that you need to improve on empathy and you were not so sure what to say or how to fix it?

Well, I have. And it feels awful sometimes to get this kind of feedback, especially when you are not sure how to even fix it. It’s not like learning a haircut when someone says just over direct this hair like this, and use this tension, or is it? As I started to look deeper into how I can learn about empathy. I realized it is a skill just like the haircutting and it can be practiced.  

This is where I found out Emotional Intelligence and learned what I call “the grey area.” Owning a salon for the past 20 years, I am fortunate to receive a lot of feedback from my team to grow. Many years ago I can remember one of my team members being super frustrated with me. She felt as though I don’t care about other people’s opinions and that I’m not listening.

I was frustrated because I felt like I owned the company and had a vision for the brand and my team should understand me. I always felt like I had good intentions. Like John Maxwell says “Intention is not enough”.

After much frustration of not getting the results that I wanted out of my business. My coach Jamie Sussel Turner,  recommended an emotional intelligence test. After getting the results my lowest score came up in empathy.

Ugh, all I could think about was ...I care for other people this test is bullshit! Well, that was my first reaction. Next was, how do I work on this? There was a disconnect between the well I felt and how I was showing up for other people. 

I learned a great deal about how to improve my emotional intelligence and I did get better. It felt weird and uncomfortable to me, almost like it was authentic and I should know this.

My biggest challenge in empathy was listening. I have ADD to the 10th degree! So I always have to be doing three things at once. Believe it or not, I actually retain things better, although it doesn’t make the person I’m listening to feel very good.

So, this took some patience. I had to really fight the voices that wanted to distract me.

The next was to repeat back what they said to me after I listened to their side. And lastly, after I listened I learned more and stayed curious and got to know more about how the other person felt and learned better ways to embrace their feelings and to really feel how they could feel.  

By not jumping to my own assumptions life became less stressful. I don’t start to play movies in my head based on what "I think" someone else is thinking. I sit down and ask them and they give me their perspective and make sure they feel valued.

 5  things I practiced to get better at empathy. 

  1. Accept feedback 
  2. Say thank you for the feedback
  3. Listen without distraction
  4. Lean in and ask more questions 
  5. Keep Growing! 

When it comes to empathy, how is this affecting your growth journey? 

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