A recent conversation left me feeling frustrated and emotional. I had a bad day at work with a temperamental client. While sharing my angst with a colleague, the conversation went downhill. My colleague tried hard to give me solutions and make me feel better. However, each attempt drove a nail further into my wound.

The first response was “Oh! Just ignore him. You must be tired  &  feeling extra emotional today”. I felt like screaming at my colleague “How can you just dismiss my feelings?’.

As I went on to explain exactly why I was justified in being upset my colleague says “Are you sure you didn’t do something to upset them? You know how you can be a bit tactless sometimes”. Now I’m being insulted by my colleague to add to my irritation.

I mean, he is quite experienced and knows his subject”. Okay- now the conversation is definitely getting out of hand. This implies I may not be justified in complaining at all. Whose side are you on?

“…and you always let him be rude to you!” Wait a minute! His bad behavior is now my fault?

“You may be right” I mutter ungraciously and head to another, far more empathetic colleague.

She hears me out & says “You seem really upset”. I warm to her immediately. Ten minutes later I feel lighter and my head has cleared. I end my conversation saying “I must admit I do let him get away with this behavior too often. Although his expertise justifies his angst. Today was a tiring day so I responded emotionally.”

Oh gosh! Did I just repeat what my un-empathetic colleague had said earlier?

Empathy is the ability to hear and accept the feelings of others, with focused attention. It involves a deep level of listening. One does not need to give advice. One does not need to try and make the person feel better. One may not even understand. When you are empathetic you are non-judgmental. A listener who is showing compassion for someone else’s feelings. Help the person articulate what they feel and clear the muddle in their hearts & minds. One does not need to agree or disagree. One only needs to understand the emotion the other person is going through.

In a world where there is so much criticism- self-inflicted or from society, an empathetic listener can have a huge impact. Leaders who practice empathy create deep bonds, an atmosphere of collaboration and inspire loyalty.

This content was created for a Birla Sun Life Insurance web portal

#Leadership #empathy #communication

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