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  • Writer's pictureJason Kiesau

The Benefits and Risks of Empathy

I've had this conversation twice in the past 24 hours; once with clients and another with a friend.

Like many things, Empathy itself can be a blessing or a curse. How people use and show Empathy will determine their outcome.

About half the general population may not be familiar with Empathy. Their needs are not relational and because of this their behavior and communication tends not to be relational. Because their needs are not relational they weren't forced to learn and use relational strategies to get their needs met.

These are the numbers and data people. They are more about the task than the relationship. This isn't saying they don't have good, loving, healthy relationships; they just don't generally need approval, emotional support and connection to feel good about themselves and what they are doing.

About half the general population feel Empathy a lot of the time. Their needs are relational and because of this their behavior and communication is also relational. From a young age they have been trying different relational strategies with people because it increases their chances of getting their needs met. Ex... if I'm nice to you, you'll probably be nice to me back.

These are the people-people. The relationship is more important than the task at hand. When they feel approval, support and connection, they are going to be more confident and focused in whatever it is they are doing.

The people who lack Empathy need to learn more about it and try it. They likely won't have the emotional connection to it, but trying to understand another person's experience or perspective and verbally acknowledging it can go along way.

The people-people who feel Empathy a lot of the time, may need to manage it. Their emotions, feelings and desire to help others may lead them to get too involved and they may assume more responsibility and stress than they should. They may become more concerned about the another person's problems, than the person with the problem.

This dynamic goes into what I refer to as the Great Workplace Divide and I believe it's the greatest causer of stress in the workplace than anything else.

The task people get annoyed with the people-people and don't trust them. The people-people's feelings get hurt and they feel disrespected by the task people . . . and don't trust them.

This is where trust the respect get built and broke and people have no clue these dynamics exist. Learning about and managing Empathy can be a productive step for everyone.

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