what we're reading now
follow us on facebook
follow us on twitter
subscribe to our blog
find it

What We're Reading Now

Starting with Empathy

11 May 2021

Janie attended the 2021 HR Virginia Annual Conference and reflected on how much the message from the opening keynote session aligned with what she’s learned from Rachel about starting with empathy.

Tags: empathy, janie read

Last month, I attended the HR Virginia Annual Conference. The opening keynote Building your Empathy Muscle was given by Johnny C. Taylor, the President and CEO of SHRM. Taylor talked about how empathy is like a muscle; it requires repetitive practice to strengthen how well we’re able to use it. He stressed that empathy is often seen as a soft skill, but it should be viewed as a critical business skill. He challenged those of us in the audience to listen to others with a lens of empathy and to ask ourselves questions like, “I wonder what made them think that?” and to stay curious about the answers instead of assuming we already know. It was a powerful opening for the conference, and I’ve found myself reflecting on this session several times over the past few weeks.

I realized part of the reason Taylor’s words resonated with me is that his message aligns so well with what we teach about empathy at Allison Partners. Empathy is about understanding the experiences and behaviors of other people by envisioning yourself in their shoes. Sometimes, you might still get it wrong or misunderstand, but trying to understand and listening with genuine curiosity can help everyone be heard. When you’re feeling stuck or you’re not sure where to start, empathy can be a source of inspiration and motivation. Approaching a new challenge with empathy can give you a different view about what might be going on, which almost always leads to better ideas and better solutions.

In this clip from her keynote address at ASAE’s Great Ideas Conference, Rachel shared why empathy is such a powerful tool when we’re trying to solve problems. I encourage you to take 3.5 minutes to watch. I think Rachel’s message about starting with empathy and Taylor’s message that we all need to train our empathy “muscle” are the same concept.

The more we practice starting with empathy, the better chance we have of finding common ground and understanding each other. That’s true when it comes to solving problems; I think it’s also true in every other aspect of life. For example, I know from experience that when I start a difficult conversation with empathy, it goes much better. I’m in a better position to understand where the other person is coming from, especially when their point of view is different from my own.

When we try to understand where others are coming from, it’s easier to reach an understanding. Starting with a perspective of empathy doesn’t always feel natural; it takes work, especially if you’re not used to doing it. That’s why it’s so important to keep doing it. I think the ability to empathize with others is what differentiates really great leaders from everyone else. As I continue my own journey to develop my voice as a leader, I’ll be focused on starting with empathy, and on training my empathy “muscle” even when it doesn’t feel natural.


Our Comment Policy:

Our blog posts are only half of the conversation. What our readers have to say is equally important to us, and we're grateful for all the comments that continue the dialog.

To ensure that the discussion here is as useful as possible to all of our readers, please be respectful of our contributors and refrain from harassing, threatening and/or vulgar language. We reserve the right to screen and remove any comments from the site. If you have a question about a comment or want to discuss our policy, please contact us. We'll talk it over.

There are no comments for this entry yet.


Leave a comment



Notify me of follow-up comments?

Enter the characters you see below:

« Return to What We're Reading Now