Empathy in the workplace may sound a little too touchy-feely for some of you, but hear me out.
Every internship requires interpersonal skills: stuff like communication, teamwork, and leadership.
One of the “softer” skills on that list is empathy, and many experts say that this is at the top of the list of must-have skills for success.
Without it, we cannot begin to understand others, which leads of course, to misunderstandings! That’s why a little empathy can go a long way in the workplace.
What is empathy?
The definition of Empathy is:
: The feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions: the ability to share someone else’s feelings
Empathy is an emotional skill that is gained through a genuine understanding others and what they might be experiencing. It is a necessary skill for leadership as well as the lowly intern.
All this sounds contrary to the typical competitive environment that is the culture of some workplaces. We are often taught to get ahead whatever the cost. But there’s a big price to pay for that down the road.
Sure, we all want to get ahead, but here’s why an empathetic person has the edge.
- One, at some point in our careers, we will need to rely on our relationships with others. Who is going to go out of their way for someone who has never taken an interest in them?
- Two, collaboration wins the day in getting things done. If you are blind to the needs and point of view of other teammates, you too will fail. We’re all in this together.
- Three, you may not always be right! Someone else may actually have a good idea or reason to do things a certain way. If your mind is a lockout, you’ll never grow.
From a leadership perspective, being an empathetic boss ignites creativity and innovation. Being open to really feeling what another person feels in his or her experiences is a real eye-opener for anyone in management. How can you grow a company if you can’t relate to your employees? Companies that stagnate ultimately fade away.
If you are in marketing, how can you speak effectively to your customers if you can’t relate to their needs, desires and problems?
The political world is filled with people arguing, stuck in their own viewpoints and maybe even starting wars. Many can’t even listen to the other side. How would you say that’s working?
Unlock your listening skills and you’ll become empathetic
Many people have trouble hearing what others have to say because they already have the next argument ready. You know what I mean; you can hear them holding their breath until you somehow stop. Don’t be that guy!
Actively listening and genuinely feeling what others are feeling takes a little patience and a big, open mind.
There’s real value in understanding and respecting another’s opinion. This is when creativity catches fire!
Read our post on how to practice active listening to become a superstar!
Internships present many challenges, but they are welcome challenges.
When you go into a new place of work, you are greeted with new, unique perspectives, values, backgrounds, and cultural experiences of others.
It’s a good thing, too, since you’re bound to encounter plenty of diversity as you continue down your career path. That’s an awesome thing – embrace it!
Empathy builds bridges in the workplace between different cultures and diverse opinions. It is when we mix these things together that we stretch our ability to understand and empathize with others. It is crucial to personal growth as well as career growth, because this is exactly the type of thing that drives collaboration. An open mind is a cool tool!
What do bosses think of empathy?
More than sparking your own growth, empathy is also a most desired trait and skill that employers look for when hiring from intern pools. They want workers who demonstrate critical thinking, collaboration, innovation, the ability to adapt to new situations and the capacity to keep learning. Here are just a few more reasons why empathy is key:
- Allows you to better understand the needs of people around you, a skill essential in any field of work.
- Gives you a clear understanding of how your actions affect others. This is especially valuable when working in team situations.
- Helps you understand nonverbal cues.
- Will support you in becoming more professional.
- Equips you with the ability to deal with interpersonal conflict.
- Helps you predict the behaviors of others.
- Gives you the ability to better motivate others around you.
- Gets people to listen to you in the same way you are listening to them.
- Allows you to experience a “big picture” worldview.
- Makes you a better leader.
Empathy is an unbelievably valuable and desired skill for any member of today’s workforce. It gives you more flexibility and improves your ability to learn. Empathy helps you navigate complexities and sustain meaningful relationships with your peers and community. It is your key to both professional and personal success.