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In empathetic workplaces, leaders ask questions, listen to the answers, and then go one step further

Today’s post is another strategy on how to create more compassionate and empathetic workplaces.  And the tip shouldn’t surprise you.  It is to ask more questions, and then to listen to the answers with interest and attentiveness.

Ask more questions and listen to the answers (and then go one step further)

Now you might wonder why I said it shouldn’t surprise you.  Well, let’s break it down.  When you ask questions, genuine questions to learn more about others and understand their point of view, you build rapport, you build relationships.  What you’re really doing is telling the other person that I care enough to find out more about you and your circumstances.  That this approach builds empathy and compassion is not surprising.

It isn’t good enough to just ask questions …

It also shouldn’t shock you when I say that it isn’t good enough to just ask questions, you actually need to listen to the answers.  And not just listen, but demonstrate to the other person that you are listening.  When you paraphrase what you hear, when you ask follow-up questions, you’re letting the other person know that you have actually heard what they said.  There is nothing more uplifting that knowing that someone else asked, listened, heard what you said, and cares about you and your situation.  As I mentioned back in Strategy #1 in this series, what I’ve just described creates empathetic workplaces – where you can feel what the other person is feeling.

Go farther to really power-up the value of this strategy!

But what takes you from an empathetic workplace to a compassionate workplace is your willingness to do something, or try to do something, to alleviate the other person’s discomfort or pain.  So while the tip I am giving you is to ask questions, and then listen to the answers with interest and attentiveness, you need to take this strategy one step further to move from empathy to compassion.  Let me give you a couple of examples to demonstrate what I mean.

If one of your staff is facing eldercare issues, what can you do that will go beyond empathy?  Perhaps offer an adjusted schedule, give the person the phone number for the EAP program, or just let them vent.

If one of your team members wants to continue to work from home even though the company has mandated that everyone needs to return to the office, what action can you take without compromising the policy?  Maybe you could ask more questions to get to the root cause of why they want to work from home and see if you can come up with a creative solution without breaking the rules.

Showing interest and listening well is empathy, but remember, taking action to try and improve the situation is compassion.  What are you doing?  Do tell!

If you haven’t seen them yet, here are the previous three strategies in this series:

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