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Leadership

Build Empathy by Listening to Understand

“How are you holding up?” That question has become a common one during the coronavirus pandemic, because everyone is handling these unusual circumstances in different ways. When a colleague shares something they’ve found challenging, it may be tempting to say, “I know how you feel,” but do you really? Instead of assuming that you know where they’re coming from, slow down and hear them out.

FranklinCovey recently launched a short web series “The 7 Habits Coach: How to Deal with Change and Uncertainty,” based on Stephen Covey’s bestselling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. In the seventh episode, FranklinCovey’s chief people officer, Todd Davis, discusses Habit 5, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” (Missed the previous episodes? Start watching here.)

Empathy involves truly hearing what someone else is experiencing, and Todd says, “I don’t think there is anything more important in the world right now than empathy.” Many people are struggling, but taking time to listen and connect with each other helps. Studies show that social connections make us more resilient.

Empathy is an important leadership skill — especially in times of crisis — and it’s a skill that tends to come more easily to women than men.  For more on developing your empathy, read this Harvard Business Review piece on how curiosity and humility come into play. If you have a little more time, watch Jodi Glickman, CEO of Great on the Job, in the Forté webinar “Leading Through Uncertainty.” This webinar, part of our Don’t Quarantine Your Career series, offers guidance on leading teams and organizations through challenging times.

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