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The Power of Empathy in Challenging Times


I recently watched a YouTube Video where Satya Nadella the CEO of Microsoft talked at the Stanford GSB. He covered a number of topics but none were more impactful than the topic of empathy as a leadership trait.

Now I am no master of empathy I am working on it hopefully like everyone else but I picked up a few things I thought were interesting.

Empathy in general will help you understand people better. It will help you understand a customer, an employee, your boss, your spouse, and world issues. It has a dramatic application in all of life.

Chris Voss is one of my favorite authors and an incredible human being. He worked for the FBI for years as their head negotiator and he dealt with hostage negotiations, terrorists, drug dealers, you name it he dealt with it.

But he said that one of the most important traits we can have is tactical empathy. I like how he said it,

"Tactical empathy is understanding the feelings and mindset of another in the moment and also hearing what is behind those feelings so you increase your influence in all the moments that follow."

It's understanding the feelings of someone else so you are able to better help them.

One of my favorite approaches of using empathy is asking one simple question no matter the situation.

How are you doing?

Even if something might be going wrong in your life and you may not be willing to express it. The act alone shows that your boss is concerned about you.

If you are a manager or boss I would suggest you use this question and be sure to pull your team in regularly. I know by experience as an employee or boss that when I find out how people are doing and what I can help them with. I have far more positive interactions than negative ones.

Some people need that interaction and others don't. So find out by asking.

If you are willing to express how things are going it opens up a dialogue that can lead to improvement in your work, it can lead to getting more resources to help you in your job. If the question never gets asked you will never know what's going on.

Empathy leads to positive outcomes

There was a study done by Catalyst on the effects of empathy in the workplace where they found some interesting positive outcomes.

  • Innovation. When people reported their leaders were empathetic, they were more likely to report they were able to be innovative—61% of employees compared to only 13% of employees with less empathetic leaders.

  • Engagement. 76% of people who experienced empathy from their leaders reported they were engaged compared with only 32% who experienced less empathy.

  • Work-Life. When people felt their leaders were more empathetic, 86% reported they are able to navigate the demands of their work and life—successfully juggling their personal, family and work obligations. This is compared with 60% of those who perceived less empathy.

This study applies to work but I think it can directly apply to our daily lives and relationships. When we put in the effort to understand where people are coming from our lives will be better over the long haul.

P.S. I would suggest checking Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss. Even though it's a negotiation book it has a ton of practical use in everyday life.




Hello, My name is Brice. I am glad you're here.  I am excited to share with you all the things I'm learning and writing.  I am on a journey to share what I learn with you and in some small way give back so you can share with others  There are a few resources on this website that can help you accomplish that.

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