Does empathy belong in the workplace?

Does empathy belong in the workplace?What’s your biggest challenge in feeling understood?

Not just thinking or believing that the other person understands what you’re saying.

Truly feeling understood.

Does that seem like a weird question?

I ask because for each of us as individuals, the deepest goal of communication is to feel (not just “be”) understood. This is more than intellectual understanding; it’s the experience of connection with another person that’s typically referred to as “empathy.”

We all have things we want to accomplish, and communication is an essential part of achieving those goals. We might want to get support for a project, brainstorm an idea, request help from a family member, ask for a promotion or a raise, and so on.

But behind that – indeed, all around that – is this desire to be felt, to experience empathy and connection, to be understood on a deep, nonverbal level.

The deepest goal of communication is to FEEL understood.Click To Tweet

There’s a myth that emotions don’t belong in the workplace, and empathy is certainly not a common emotion even in the most open organization. Nonetheless, imagine what we might be able to accomplish if leaders, executives, team members, and colleagues within an organization could actually reach an empathic level of understanding with each other.

Imagine, too, what might happen if marketing teams – whether in your organization or any other – had that depth of understanding about their customers.

I’d suggest imagining what might happen within government, between political parties, and between countries … but I’m not sure anyone’s imagination can go that far.  Still, what a different world it would be!

What’s your biggest challenge in reaching that level of understanding?

What can you do to offer this gift of understanding to others – even if they’re not at the top of your list of the most empathizable (to coin a word) people in the world?

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