Empathy is one of 26 key competencies in the 4 Quadrant Model of Social + Emotional Intelligence®. Emotional Intelligence is about being aware of not only of yourself as well as others. Empathy is also about how to manage behaviours and relationships.
So what is empathy? Who has it and what are the signs of someone who doesn’t have it?
The Oxford Dictionary defines empathy as “The ability to understand and share the feelings of another”. The definition that I have on my own SEI profile is “- sensing others’ feelings and perspectives, and taking an active interest in their concerns; the ability to put yourself in another’s place and to take that perspective into account in your relationship with the other person.”
You would expect most therapists and coaches to have empathy with their clients as they listen for and observe both spoken and unspoken cues. In my humble opinion, if you come across a therapist or coach that lacks this quality….. find someone else. There are several signs that pinpoint that someone is lacking in this competency. Firstly, they will tend to stereotype others. Another clue is the inability to “read” people or their emotions and respond without considering how another might feel about that response. A third and telling sign is that they are often in conflict and don’t take any personal responsibility for creating these situations.
Whether you believe in unseen energies or not, humans are energy beings and the research undertaken by the HeartMath Institute has shown that the energy field generated by the heart can influence both our emotional responses and those of others nearby. Of course, you don’t have to be a therapist to have empathy, you may be a good listener – which is always a good start.
The good news is, that if someone is lacking in empathy, there are ways to develop this important emotional intelligence competency. It is possible to learn how to become more empathetic. For instance, to be a good listener, you first need to quiet the chatter in your mind. Too often people are forming responses before the speaker has finished. Above all, a regular meditation practice will help you to listen with a clear mind. Practice the power of the pause. This will help you to respond in a manner that shows sensitivity to the speaker. Learn to paraphrase what you think you have heard and most importantly withhold judgement as everyone has a different perspective.
Needless to say, if you feel that you need to develop this particular intelligence or any of the other 26 competencies for Emotional Intelligence, then schedule a Discovery Session or some coaching sessions.