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You should not judge; you should understand.
Let's go on a journey to grow your ability to empathize - at work and home.
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I’ve been in the tech space for the past 12 years - specifically in the product world for the last six years. Although I’ve seen many cool products and features go live, I wouldn’t say the software and processes launched are the most rewarding thing about the career path. So what is the thing I’m most proud of developing over time?
The short answer?
Now I’m not on the Dr. Frasier Crane level empath - and many of you might need to Google this legend or check out the loose AI interpretation above - but I feel like moving into the product world has forced me to develop my empathy skills to hone my craft. The soft skills you work on and how intensely you work on them can have a direct impact on your ability to build higher quality solutions as well as stronger relationships and influence with the people around you.
Let’s cover a few ways to improve your ability to empathize with people and how this can benefit your daily work life.
Practice active listening.
Active listening is a powerful tool for improving empathy skills. When we practice active listening, we consciously try to truly understand the person's perspective, feelings, and needs. By paying attention to verbal and nonverbal cues, we can better tune in to the emotions behind the words.
Better understanding - active listening will naturally lead you to ask more prying questions and help you round out your understanding of the person or people you’re listening to.
Better problem-solving - You’re asking questions and mentally/physically making notes to collect data. Why are you trying to collect data? To help you solve problems. Therefore, the more you listen and learn; the better suited you are to problem-solve.
Improved relationships - The best listeners in your life make you feel heard. Like you have something important to say, even if what you’re saying leads nowhere, the fact someone is taking the time to talk to you and find out more undoubtedly will help improve or create a bond between you two which can be helpful down the road.
Another concept related to empathy I use is the good old-fashioned trading of places. Imagine yourself in the other person’s shoes, challenge your biases, and consider their perspectives. In using this approach, I have found that I feel growth in the following ways:
Developing emotional intelligence - Baked into emotional intelligence and connection to the trading places approach comes the key skills such as perspective-taking, social awareness, and improved self-awareness.
Building trust - With work and life, trust is important to preserving and having fruitful relationships. Putting yourself in someone’s shoes to attempt to feel or think like they do can be challenging, but it pushes you to ask more questions to seek understanding. And as mentioned above, this is a great way to build relationships and trust.
Fosters compassion and kindness - If you start to understand someone better and their struggle finally begins to register with you, you will undoubtedly evolve your interactions with them in a way where you show them more compassion and kindness. This will also help to build relationships and trust.
BTW - I can’t officially drop a picture reference to the brilliant film starring Dan Ackroyd and Eddie Murphy with a similar name…so I had the AI do its best. You be the judge.
Collaboration across multiple channels/departments.
Finally, discussing ideas with colleagues from different departments can boost your ability to empathize. Why?
Provides exposure to diverse perspectives - Different backgrounds can influence how someone uses a product more than you may realize. Collaborating and building relationships across departments will increase your chances of finding a larger variety of diverse backgrounds.
Promotes understanding and respect - Exposure to diverse perspectives helps you round out your understanding of the people around you and understand who and what they are all about. Digging into these core tenets and finding how related yours may be to theirs can help grow your ability to understand and respect them.
Fosters a sense of community and connection - Although you may not 100% relate to every coworker or user within your stratosphere, bonding over commonalities helps establish more profound connections. Over time, these connections begin to weave together and create “communities,” which can further grow your connections to other perspectives and ultimately boost your ability to empathize.
Practicing active listening is a powerful tool to improve empathy skills. It allows us to consciously try to understand someone's perspective, feelings, and needs and better tune in to the emotions behind their words by paying attention to verbal and nonverbal cues. Trading places or imagining ourselves in someone else's shoes can also enhance empathy by developing emotional intelligence, building trust, and fostering compassion and kindness. Collaborating with colleagues from different departments further boosts empathy by providing exposure to diverse perspectives, promoting understanding and respect, and fostering community and connection.
Ultimately, actively working on empathy skills can improve relationships and positively impact those around us.
The Product Party and I would love to hear about how focusing on empathy has helped you in your life, so feel free to comment using this button and let us know:
Random interesting reads
As a follow-up to my last post about useful ways to get started today with ChatGPT, I came across another great post fromhighlighting many new products, you could play around with to help your day-to-day.
The one I’m most excited to check out is Grid.
Grid’s formula assistant lets you type what you’re looking for into a spreadsheet cell in your own words. It then spits out the formula you need. This 2.5-minute video shows how it works.
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