In February we discussed workplace bullying, but like Charles M. Glow said, “One doesn’t have to operate with great malice to do great harm. The absence of empathy and understanding are sufficient.”
With so many issues facing the workforce today, it is important to recognize and understand the diversity of your workforce and empathize with the issues that they are faced with daily.
Empathy is the ability to put yourself in the shoes of others, psychologically, to understand their thoughts, feelings, needs and wants. More importantly, it’s using that information to build relationships, teamwork, and effective leadership.
Studies reveal that empathy is positively related to job performance and managers who exhibit empathy are more effective and better performers in their jobs. Unfortunately, empathy is the skill managers struggle with most–only 4 in 10 leaders have a natural empathy.
Many are naturally empathetic. Blues have an innate gift of compassion, thoughtfulness and sincerity and Whites have a natural kindness along with being accepting listeners.
Others are not. Because Reds are innately selfish and Yellows are naturally self-centered, they are not as tolerant of other people’s problems, and so are less likely to place themselves in another’s shoes.
The good news is that research shows that empathy can be learned.
A Red who isn’t a natural born empath will have difficulty developing the skill. They lack the emotional motivation of a Blue and Yellow and will struggle with impatience when listening to the problems of others—taking the “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” approach of communication.
Reds—Learn to Listen You need to remember that people are not machines. They have feelings. Listen and absorb what is being said. Develop the ability to identify with the issues you are hearing. Don’t trivialize the problem. Be patient and offer help.
While many Blues are innately empathic– naturally thoughtful and compassionate, they can also be emotionally controlling and judgmental. They will feel your pain, maybe even worry about it, but they will also want to take an active role in solving the problem.
Blues—Don’t be Judgmental You don’t struggle with empathy. What you struggle with is your need to judge and control. Remember, true empathy is putting yourself in the shoes of another, not making them fit into yours. Learn to fight the impulse to fix others problems, while letting them know you are there for them when they need you.
Yellows can be fair-weather friends. When all is well, they are there. When things turn bad, they make themselves scarce. They enjoy their sense of well-being and don’t want your problems to mar them.
Yellows—Use your natural curiosity as an empathy building block. Ask meaningful questions. Learn engaged listening. Don’t think about other things while being spoken to. Don’t interrupt. Respond with understanding comments and gestures. Eventually, these behaviors will become natural.
Whites are kind, great listeners and very accepting, but they can also be ambivalent and uninvolved. Whites are logical so have a difficult time understanding emotional needs.
Whites—Become engaged. Great listening skills matter but what you do with the information matters more. You might just be thinking, “Please. Go. Away.” Engaged listening is necessary for you to really empathize with others. Step out of your own “comfort zone” shoes and really try to fit yourself in the shoes of others.
Only when you become self-aware—cognizant of your own strengths and imitations—can you begin to feel empathy for others and by doing so, increase your ability to build strong relationships, become a better employee and have a more fulfilling life.
Next month as our Self-Awareness journey continues, we will explore our diverse workplaces and how filters can have a profound effect on our ability to discern core colors.
Teresa Glenn has been working with the Color Code since 2006, where her main focus is product development. She has been in the publishing and product development field for over 20 years. Teresa is a core Red with a strong Yellow secondary.
The Secret To Increasing Your Empathy | The Science of Empathy
The power of empathy: Helen Riess at TEDxMiddlebury