Having the ability to be empathetic with your team is what distinguishes good leaders from great leaders. If you consistently show genuine empathy for your team, your communication and relationships will improve in the workplace. Communicating and listening with empathy is the foundation for positive and effective communication in the workplace. You cannot listen with empathy as a leader if you do not have a foundation of trust with your team. Here are four strategies to help build trust within your team when thinking about being an empathetic listener.
As a leader, it is important to try not to react to what the person you are speaking to is saying even if you feel yourself getting triggered; maybe they have misinterpreted something you have said, they have the wrong information, or they are making a wild assumption. Whatever it is, just try to let it wash over you and keep listening until you can find something positive and constructive to say. Getting defensive and reactive is not going to help resolve the situation or build trust on your team.
Maintain open body language
Body language sends clear signals as to how open or closed you are to communicating. If you are sending the signal that you are closed off, your team is not going to feel comfortable sharing things with you that they may need help or assistance with. Pay attention to how you are sitting during conversations with your team members. You may start off in an open position, but then begin to unconsciously close as the conversation continues. If you feel yourself start to close off, try to lean back in, and move into a more receptive posture. Let go of your anxiety and be aware of those triggers; if you find yourself starting to fidget your foot for example, it is time to take a breath and take a quick breath before you continue.
Accept the silences
We tend to think that silences are awkward in conversations, so we just want to jump in and fill the holes. But silences can be helpful. Silences are an opportunity to settle for a minute and think about the conversation. A silence may give you both the space and the courage to say something you or the speaker has been holding back.
Listen to your team using empathy, not sympathy
We tend to confuse empathy and sympathy or think of them as they same thing, when in actuality, they are very different. Sympathy is feeling sorry for someone, empathy is putting yourself in their shoes and experiencing what they are experiencing. Sympathizing with someone is okay, but when you empathize with them, they feel much more understood and acknowledged.
With candidates becoming harder to secure, no company can be in a situation where they see strong talent walk out the door. Because of this and many other reasons, leaders embracing empathetic listening more important than ever before. If you listen with empathy, you can show understanding and compassion in a challenging situation. Listening with empathy can also help with emotions taking over in difficult situations. While you listen, put yourself in that person’s shoes and identify with that they may be feeling. When listening to your team, listen without judging or becoming distracted using the tips above. This will not only make your group feel valued and engaged, but soon other managers in your organization will be asking you how you retain such a great group and get such good results out of your team.