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Tips for Developing Empathy – Integrating This Into Staff Training Will Reap Rewards!

Empathy is an emotional and thinking muscle that becomes stronger the more we use it. Here are a few practical tips you might consider to help you discuss this during communication skills training, or you might want to pass on to your colleagues to help them:

•    Listen – truly listen to people. Listen with your ears, eyes and heart. Pay attention to others’ body language, to their tone of voice, to the hidden emotions behind what they are saying to you, and to the context.

•    Don’t interrupt people. Don’t dismiss their concerns offhand. Don’t rush to give advice. Don’t change the subject. Allow people their moment.

•    Tune in to non-verbal communication. This is the way that people often communicate what they think or feel, even when their verbal communication says something quite different.

•    Practice the “93% rule”. We know from a famous study by Professor Emeritus, Albert Mehrabian of UCLA, when communicating about feelings and attitudes,  words – the things we say – account for only 7% of the total message that people receive. The other 93% of the message that we communicate when we speak is contained in our tone of voice and body language. It’s important, then, to spend some time to understand how we come across when we communicate with others about our feelings and attitudes.

•    Use people’s name. Also remember the names of people’s spouse and children so that you can refer to them by name.

•    Be fully present when you are with people. Don’t check your email, look at your watch or take phone calls when a direct report drops into your office to talk to you. Put yourself in their shoes. How would you feel if someone did that to you?

•    Smile at people. This will also boost your own self-esteem and your immune system!

•    Encourage people, particularly the quiet ones, when they speak up in meetings. A simple thing like an attentive nod can boost people’s confidence.

•    Give genuine recognition and praise. Pay attention to what people are doing and catch them doing the right things. When you give praise, spend a little effort to make your genuine words memorable: “You are an asset to this team because..”; “This was pure genius”; “I would have missed this if you hadn’t picked it up.”

•    Take a personal interest in people. Show people that you care, and genuine curiosity about their lives. Ask them questions about their hobbies, their challenges, their families, their aspirations.

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