Empathy is the ability to step into another person’s emotional state of mind and understand how they feel. Why does empathy matter? As a leader, you can inspire loyalty and commitment when you show that you empathize with your team members. Leaders who inspire others are productive high achievers. If you aspire to that level of success, empathy will help you get there.
Psychologists and neuroscientists have discovered that empathy is a skill you can develop by rewiring your thinking. How do you do that? These brain hacks how learn empathy will get you started.
Spend Time Around Different Kinds of People
One of the best ways to stretch yourself emotionally is to step outside your social circle. Spend time with people who have diverse backgrounds, cultures, and views about life. According to relationship expert Chase Amante, “By exposing yourself to various kinds of people, you challenge your preset notions, make it increasingly difficult to remain removed and judgmental, and humanize people who were previously only stereotypes to you.”
Every time you challenge your own thinking, you grow emotionally and intellectually. Spending time around new people and actively engaging with them will make you a better leader.
Keep Your Brain Strong
Your brain controls your thoughts and feelings. How do you keep it sharp for a lifetime? Neuroscientist Tej Tadi, the founder of MindMaze, offers five simple hacks for keeping your brain healthy.
• Discover which learning style works for you, and use it.
• Keep learning: Your brain is flexible and strong. It can keep learning if you continue stretching yourself to learn new things.
• Get regular exercise: Exercise releases endorphins and other feel-good hormones, which will help your brain become more emotionally aware.
• Develop empathy and awareness of others: Active listening will fire up your brain cells.
• Regulate your emotional reactions: Learn to handle your emotional reactions to stress and fear. Never let emotions override your logic.
Practice Being Compassionate
Empathy alone is not enough. While empathy for positive emotions can enhance your life by increasing your ability to feel joy and pleasure, there is a downside. Too much emotional empathy for negative emotions can lead to symptoms of anxiety and depression. If you doubt that, consider the way you feel after watching a string of sad news reports on TV. This leads to a condition that is sometimes called “compassion fatigue.”
According to researchers at Ireland’s Royal College of Surgeons, however, the term “compassion fatigue” is a misnomer. Compassion is distinct from empathy because it helps us feel a need to help people without actively feeling their pain. Why does this matter?
“The distinction is important because it turns out that compassion is the antidote to the distress we feel when we empathize with people who are suffering. We need less empathy and more compassion.”
Inspire Others and Realize Your Goals
Hack your brain by developing your empathy and compassion, keeping your brain strong, and learning to regulate your emotions. At the Leonard Productivity Institute, we use findings from neuroscience to create programs that help everyone become more productive. To learn more, contact us.