Empathy and Communication in Business Relationships
Any business requires interaction between two or more people, two or more organizations, two or more entities. Communication of the mental picture one portrays in one’s mind is essential to be communicated in letter and spirit to the other part. This ensures that efforts of both or multiple entities are on the same platter and they progress in the common direction. Synergized efforts directed towards fulfillment of the common aim not only helps achieve the purpose it also helps build up a trustful work environment, which helps reap rewards in the long run.
There are many techniques outlined for enabling effective communication. We believe that most of these can be developed with minimal effort if we are able to practice one basic attribute of Human Nature viz. Empathy.
Empathy is the ability to understand the feelings of the other person, the capacity to place oneself in other’s position, have a understanding attitude towards the other person, and in short capability to put oneself in other’s shoes.
Empathy helps us to understand People, understand their concerns and imagine what we would do if we were in his position. Since we imagine ourselves in other’s position, we associate ourselves with him and start respecting him, though may be with a difference of opinion.
Thus Empathy helps us develop respect for the other individual, and that gives us the power of enhancing our listening skills. Since we respect the other person, hence we listen to him with patience. If the Speaker also is empathetic and in turn respectful towards us, he would understand our concern and try to present facts in a clear and concise manner, the one which we are able to get through immediately. (In fact if the listener is empathetic that itself gives a boost to the speaker to turn empathetic in his conversation)
Empathy not only helps us become a good listener, we also get involved in the conversation in order to understand the contents and would try to reassure ourselves of our understanding by summarizing the contents and getting feedback on our understanding. The questions would be aimed at understanding what the speaker wants to say and not to test him or put him down. The speaker also loves a audience which is involving and understanding. This in turn makes him go deep into the subject matter and present the subject in a manner that helps listeners connect to themselves by relating the subject matter to the listener’s field of experience.
One of the other attributes of a effective communication is open-mindedness. If we have Empathy for others, we understand that each individual has a thought pattern which is consistent with the conditioning received by him till now. Even if we received the same conditioning/ were in his position, probably we would also behave in the same manner. At the same time, practicing empathy over a period also helps us realize that each individual has his own view point and the same may be helpful to us in our business or personal situation. We have opportunities to learn from each individual.
This helps develop open mindedness: the ability to receive new ideas, the ability to shake our long standing beliefs/ thoughts and a ability to review our mindsets. When we develop the ability to put ourselves into other’s position, we also develop the respect for his opinion, and in turn we subconsciously review our own opinions and become receptive to the opinions of others. We thus develop a attitude of open-mindedness.
The ability of a listener or speaker to change his working methods, to learn from a conversation, to ponder upon different thought patterns depend only on his extent of open-mindedness, on his readiness to the new ideas, different ideas or the thoughts of others. The listener may not necessarily agree with whatever the speaker says or vive versa, but an open-mind helps him grasp the message, the thoughts of the speaker, and evaluate his own ideas/ working methods for keeping it the same/ improving upon it.
Unless the speaker and listener do not grasp anything out of the conversation, the conversation does not fulfill its purpose.
Empathy also helps us choose the right time and right medium for communication. We would communicate to the other person only when he is in a receiving position, or will choose the right medium (language, messenger etc) which helps him understand the message, if we have empathy for him.
Thus we see that attributes like Listening Skills, Clarity of Communication, Feedback, Open-mindedness, and The Right Medium etc. are enabled largely by developing Empathy. The basic of all these attributes is Empathy. Once a person develops empathy, most of these attributes come in automatically, and with little training, he can contribute to be an effective communicator.
Body Language and Confidence are also two major elements which contribute to an effective communication. Empathetic listeners helps raise the confidence of speaker, A Empathetic interviewer helps raise the confidence of the candidate, A empathetic speaker helps encourage the listeners to confidently pose their questions.
When do our words match our body language ? Simple, when we are confident from inside. A Empathetic speaker or listener has the capability to bring the other partner to a level of confidence that he is able to understand or convey the message. There are various methods outlined to pose a confident body language: One which helps impress the other. The communication made by a non-confident speaker may not be taken at its spirit. Similarly, if the words do not match body language, the listener turns away confused.
When we develop empathy, gradually we earn self respect for ourselves as well. When we can try to lodge into other’s position and feel what his feelings would be, we not only develop respect for his thought patterns, we also realize that we ourselves too are a complete human being, with our own qualities and shortcomings , like the other person who too has his share of qualities and shortcomings.
By Being empathetic, we know that while the other person might be correct, we too are correct. And if not correct, we are ready to correct ourselves. Thus a measure of self confidence creeps in, and slowly that gets reflected in the body language as well.
Thus Empathy is a very powerful contributor not only to effective communication, but also to many other qualitative human attributes.
An organization would probably best do if trainings that help develop Empathy in People are inculcated at definite repeated frequencies. Not only for a organization, for the country as well, it would be a beneficial exercise to make it a part of school curriculum.