Empathy deepens around shared experience.

You won’t always be able to relate to someones circumstance, but there’s a good chance you could relate to the context.

  • You may not have had conflict with the person in question but you’ll likely know how it feels to be on the delivery end of a difficult conversation.
  • You may not know what it’s like to be made redundant but you could possibly know how it feels to worry about finance or job security.
  • You may not know what it’s like to experience a proposed change from the perspective of someone on your team but you wouldn’t be new to navigating the uncertainty of change.

Tapping into personal experience can help us show up more empathetically for the person in front of us by imagining what it might be like to walk in their shoes. While our experiences of the situation can differ significantly, it can serve as a guide to help us surface any unspoken feelings or conversations.

I once believed that my job as a leader was to distance myself from people’s experiences, hide my challenges and put on a brave face. In doing so I became less human. I’ve learned that people are inspired through achievement but we connect through vulnerability.

Empathy can be personal but it shouldn’t be selfish.

Empathy is about learning to feel what the other person is feeling as though their feelings are your own. Becoming more aware of our own feelings and drawing on contexts in which we have experienced them can help us to connect more deeply.

When reflecting on someones experience, ask yourself:

  1. What emotions are they experiencing?
  2. When have I felt those emotions?
  3. How did they impact me?
  4. How can this help me connect more personally to their experience?

As we connect more deeply with self we use it as a tool to be more in service of others.

A question to reflect on:
“What is the context I can use to help me better understand the circumstance in front of me?”