“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say, ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”—Fred Rogers
In times such as these, providing empathy, kindness and compassion to our fellow citizens is the single most important factor in surviving the times of the CORONA pandemic.
What Is Empathy?
In its simplest form, empathy is the ability to recognize emotions in others, and to understand other people’s perspectives on a situation. At its most developed, empathy enables you to use that insight to improve someone else’s mood and to support them through challenging situations.
According to influential psychologist Daniel Goleman, empathy is one of the five key components of emotional intelligence – a vital leadership skill. It develops through three stages: cognitive empathy, emotional empathy and compassionate empathy. We discuss each stage in turn, below.
Cognitive empathy is the ability to understand what another person might be thinking or feeling. It need not involve any emotional engagement by the observer.
Managers may find cognitive empathy useful in understanding how their team members are feeling, and therefore what style of leadership would get the best from them today. Similarly, sales executives can use it to gauge the mood of a customer, helping them to choose the most effective tone for a conversation.
Cognitive empathy is a mostly rational, intellectual, and emotionally neutral ability. This means that some people use it for negative purposes. For example, those with a Machiavellian personality trait
may use cognitive empathy to manipulate people who are emotionally vulnerable.
Emotional empathy is the ability to share the feelings of another person, and so to understand that person on a deeper level. It’s sometimes called “affective empathy” because it affects or changes you. It’s not just a matter of knowing how someone feels, but of creating genuine rapport with them.
This kind of empathy can be overwhelming. People with strong empathic tendencies can become immersed in other people’s problems or pain, sometimes damaging their own emotional well-being. This is particularly true if they don’t feel able to resolve the situation.
Anyone leading a team will benefit from developing at least some emotional empathy. It helps to build trust between managers and team members, and to develop honesty and openness. But empathy is most valuable when it’s combined with action.
Compassionate empathy is the most active form of empathy. It involves not only having concern for another person, and sharing their emotional pain, but also taking practical steps to reduce it.
For example, imagine that one of your team members is upset and angry because he or she delivered an important presentation badly. Acknowledging their hurt is valuable, and affirming their reaction by showing signs of those feelings yourself even more so. But best of all is putting aside some time for them, and offering practical support or guidance on getting through the situation and preparing for next time.
We would like to applaud Martha Osiru the proprietor of Enlight a vocational institute located in Matugga. Her vision is to help the under privileged youth from upcountry attain skills that will turn them into leaders as they pursue their goals to achieve their visions. Her passion has led her to areas in Eastern Uganda where she has identified youth from Kamuli, Iganga, Mayuge, Busia and even as far as Western Kenya. All the youth we have trained in soft skills have poor backgrounds and she has provided technical skills for them in a healthy environment where they have access to better facilities. THIS IS COMPASSIONATE EMPATHY.
We need more people to give out empathy to the less privileged.