Wednesday 21 January 2015

Empathy at #HRPA2015

I'm in Toronto at the HRPA's Annual Conference - no arctic storms this year.

And we're starting at a jet lag tolerant 7.00am, though since it's dark outside it still feels a lot earlier than the 2.00pm it shoul feel like.

Anyway, here's Roman Krznaric on the six habits of highly empathetic people. 

Empathy is the ability to step into shoes of someone else and see things through their eyes.  A topical issue with eg Obama talking about an empathy deficit in the US.

We all have it, we can learn it, and it's the basis of social relationships.  It creates the emotional bonds which makes life worth living - without it we are emotionally tone death.  It's also the basis for leadership, collaboration and helps erode conflict to create a more democratic culture.

There is:

  • Affective empathy - shared emotional response - mirroring (not sympathising with) others emotional response
  • Cognitive empathy - taking the perspective of others and trying to work out what it is like to be them so we can respond appropriately to others (as George Bernard Shaw says don't do to others what you'd like them to do to you - the 'golden rule' - they may have different tastes)

But one research study shows empathy in US falling 40% over last few years.

So we need to focus on developing the habits of highly empathetic people:

  1. Switch on your empathetic brain - we are competitive etc but we are also human and supportive eg mirror neutrons.  But although this is hard wired we can also change and improve.
  2. Make the imaginative leap - think about how other people would respond - this gets harder for more senior people in businesses.
  3. Practice the craft of conversation and empathetic listening - the basis of nonviolent communication) - listen out for someone's feelings as well as their needs and be present for these (Marshall Rosenberg - the length of negotiation is cut in half simply by asking each negotiator to accurately repeat what the previous speaker has said.)
  4. Seek experiential adventures that can change your life or at least organisation -
  5. Travel in your armchair - even this retires our brain paths
  6. Inspire a revolution - keep the bigger picture in mind.  Empathy opens the door and then rules and procedures wedge it open.

We also need to build outrespection as well as introspection (and empathy is the ultimate art form in building outrospection!)

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