I was listening to “THE BIG O” this morning… Not the one you are thinking about – but my personal favourite - Oprah Winfrey. She was having a super soul conversation with Lin-Manuel Miranda about ‘Creativity and Compassion’. The thing that grabbed me was his philosophy that a successful artist or performer works from an empathic foundation. Lin-Manuel feels that empathy is the element that measures success in his industry.
This is an interesting thought. Lin-Manuel explained that once an artist would walk in the shoes of the character they were portraying, enabled a more authentic and meaningful connection with the audience. Oprah agreed. I agreed. Check it out http://www.supersoul.tv/tag/lin-manuel-miranda
I started reflecting. My careers – teaching and nursing – demand empathy in order to be effective. Nurses need to feel and understand others pain and discomfort. Teachers need to empathise with student’s circumstances in order to help that individual. As a business owner, I need to empathise with my customers. I need to understand their pains in order to create a solution.
Shop assistants, care givers, managers, leaders or anyone working with people or for people need to empathise in order to be effective. Have you ever worked for a manager who cannot empathise with staff?
Psychology Today describes Empathy is the experience of understanding another person's condition from their perspective. Empathy is when a person puts themself in another’s shoes and feel what others are feeling. Empathy is known to increase prosocial (helping) behaviours. While our modern culture might be teaching people to embrace individualism rather than empathic, research has uncovered the existence of "mirror neurons," which react to emotions expressed by others and then reproduce them. We are hard wired to be empathic.
As a professional, empathy reminds us to be mindful of others. An empathic teacher understands that students come to class with a history – a history of what happened this morning, last week and last year. An empathic nurse knows that the person in the bed in front of them has a history of physical, social and emotion turmoil. An empathic leader knows those working with him have their private and professional struggles – just like you.
An empathic professional is planned and prepared to manage differences. An empathic professional uses clear and effective communication. They check for understanding and value those they are working with. An empathic person wants to be of service to others. As empathic professionals we are hard wired to react to others. In order to be effective when serving others, we need to be aware and plan for change.
So whether you are an artist or actor, teacher or nurse, business owner, or work in business, empathy is important. Does leadership success align with the measures of empathy? Do leaders need to show ruthless compassion to their team? It is not easy to walk in another person’s shoes. It seems that science says that true empathy is good for the brain, but is it good for business. Good business is good for community.
Some food for thought.