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What is empathy?

EmpathyIs it ‘the ability to understand and share the feelings of another’? A good strong statement. And yes, this captures it nicely in exactly that, a statement. 

There’s a reason why empathy is firmly on so many agendas at the moment. People talk about it improving the workplace, maximising employee retention, even tackling the Great Resignation conundrum. So, do you really know what it is and what it can do in the workplace? Because if you don’t, you’re probably missing a trick. 


Type ‘what is empathy?’ into any online search and you’ll be able to draw upon countless source materials. People are actively seeking the answer and for good reasons too. What’s more; it’s not a topic that’s going away. Without going deeply into the science here, there is one key element that flows through many of those pieces that is important to draw attention to. It is this. There may be some people who are born with the ability to empathise – but this doesn’t matter. Empathy is a skill that can be learned. 


Many learn simple empathy skills as children, but as life’s journey unfolds, we are increasingly cluttered by the many things we are learning, which means our ability to empathise can become diluted. As we mature and enter into a workplace, we may also become more guarded about being empathic and consider it a weakness. Some may prefer to sidestep any emotional connection - to avoid being swamped by others’ feelings. And some simply feel uncomfortable, don’t understand it and so don’t want to be seen to be adopting it.  


Maybe this should be called the ‘Great Shame’.  


Businesses are opening up to the need for empathy and the idea of people being empathic. The knock-on effect is that the potential of employees and what a company can truly achieve are becoming unlocked.  


Much of the information out there focuses on the need for empathic leaders. We believe it shouldn’t be centred purely on the top tier of managers – empathy should be for everyone. Agreed, it makes a difference when empathy is role modelled by leaders; however, a bigger difference is made when it runs all the way through the business – a golden thread. To achieve this, empathy and its many benefits need to be clear and tangible to everyone. People need to be able to explore it and learn about it in accessible, easy to understand ways, leading to quick adoption in the workplace. Then, it needs to be sustainably reinforced with practical application in everyday operations. Maybe you think this is easier said than done? We thought that too. Which is exactly why we went away and created Em-Path. A short online training course capturing the essence and spirit of empathy and more. 


This isn’t just for one group of people. Nor for one level in a business or one particular role. We believe the best approach is for a business to embrace Empathy for All. 


Em-Path Online is an e-learning tool helping people and organisations create a more empathic culture. For only £59+VAT you can learn how to be more empathic too - 


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