Posts tagged: Empathy

How to turn empathy into your secret strength

Growing up I was constantly labeled the “good listener.” Being a highly-sensitive person gave me the gift of being able to sense other people’s emotions, often without them saying a word. Over the years I’ve come to realize what a powerful strength empathy can be. Now as a coach and licensed social worker, it’s part of my job description.


What is empathy, really?

In a world where life is busy, complex, and filled with stress, empathy is the glue that holds relationships together. It’s the ability to detect other’s emotions and understand their perspective. When we feel accepted and validated, it builds trust, heals, and leads to greater happiness.

Empathy isn’t reserved exclusively for our personal lives, either. It’s what you need to comfort a grieving co-worker, get people on board with your ideas, or diffuse tension
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How to negotiate a power struggle at work

Power struggles personify the worst kind of office politics. They sap energy. Distract from purpose. And hold the potential to derail success and happiness.

It’s the rare individual who actually enjoys a power struggle. Most of us want to do what we’re paid for, joke around with our colleagues, and feel like we’ve contributed.

That’s not so easy when emotions are running high. Empathy is replaced with an “us or them” mentality that can quickly escalate. Then we’re stuck either dodging bullets or picking sides. What other choice do we have?

The heart of the struggle

Power often evokes the image of a corner office where people in expensive suits lay down the law for the rest of us. But the reality is, power — and the fight for it — can come from anywhere.

To help us understand workplace struggles, and how to respond to them, we asked our colleague Sara Kalick
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Are you driven by love or fear?

love or fear

Life is complicated — but your motivation isn’t. Without exception, every action we take is motivated either by love or by fear. For example:

• Acting weird around someone we’re not sure about: Fear (What if we don’t get along? I don’t want to feel disliked by someone I don’t really connect with.)

• Offering constructive criticism, even though it makes you sweat: Love (I want this person to do well. I won’t withhold the information he needs to do that.)

• Telling someone it’s okay, even though you think it probably isn’t: Fear (I’m not sure how to tell him otherwise. He might react badly. I don’t want to feel bad about it.)

• Sharing the responsibility for a situation your partner created: Love (I care about improving this situation, for everyone involved. Blaming her for it won’t help change things.)

Whether it’s an everyday quibble (your boyfriend is being difficult) or a really big deal (your
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15 ways to find your holiday cheer

Ah, the holidays.

In spite of — and because of — great expectations for magical perfection, it’s a time of year when it’s painfully obvious if things aren’t going right. Travel delays, difficult in-laws, financial hardships, loneliness, physical ailments, personal losses, a full-blown case of the winter blues.

One way to deal is to gripe about the holidays until January 2. Or grin and bear it for the sake of everyone around you. Or — this may sound counterintuitive — you could help someone else get unstuck from their holiday doldrums.

In essence, the holidays are about goodwill. And that often occurs as a result of extending it. Just imagine: A kind act from you might be the thing that jump-starts someone’s holiday spirit, and that might jump-start yours. Here are 15 ideas you could
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6 ways to deal with an angry person


Stuck moment: Man, I hate it when she gets on a righteous anger rant. I never know what to say, and it’s such a waste of energy and time. She’s a great person otherwise, but I’m not sure it’s worth hanging out with her anymore.

* * *

Someone feels wronged, and we get to hear all about it. Uncomfortable!

A natural tendency is to say, “calm down.” Or explain the other side. Maybe we match her angry words with some of our own. Or remain silent. All human responses, but not all that effective. That’s because we’re not acknowledging how the angry person feels, which more than anything will help her calm down.

Think about it:

  • If we don’t appear to understand, we risk fueling the fire.
  • If we say nothing to avoid conflict, we risk allowing ourselves to be mistreated.
  • If we challenge her anger, we risk losing control of our emotions too.

The better we
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What goes wrong when you’re always right

What goes wrong when you're always right

Stuck Moment: His strategy is wrong, I just know it. But when I explain it to him, he doesn’t seem to want to hear it  — no matter how much I insist. I don’t understand why people won’t listen for their own good. It’s not my fault if I’m right.

*   *   *

Seeing things that others don’t can put us in an awkward place. We want — or need — to prove our point, and yet somehow this makes us the bad guy. And that just doesn’t compute: Being right = good, not bad, right?

Not always.

Yes, contribute to the conversation, but be mindful of how. We humans, after all, can be a prickly lot. And one red-hot button is when someone regularly tells us we’re wrong. We start to feel devalued. Perhaps unworthy. Definitely annoyed.

The consequence of being that righty-pants, no matter how good your intention, is that
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Empathy: The single best way to get unstuck


When we feel stuck, at the heart of it, we feel lonely. We’re not understood. We’re not connected. Our worries sap the energy and imagination necessary to see our way out.

We need empathy. Stat!

We need someone to acknowledge us and show that they understand how we feel. To give us a sense of unfettered belonging that will unclog our stuck thoughts and feelings.

At the same time, we’re obliged to engage in empathy ourselves.

We need to truly understand the people involved in our stuck moment: This will broaden our perspective and open up possibilities. Otherwise, it’s too easy to pigeonhole situations, which only narrows our vision.

What empathy does for us
Empathy, in a nutshell, is the ability to hear and feel what someone is saying, verbally and otherwise, without casting judgment. It is the act of letting others know that you understand them and their situation. You feel what they feel.

The results
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Finding: Reading literature enhances empathy and understanding

Here’s an easy fix to social awkwardness — reading! A recent study found that participants assigned short excerpts of literary fiction scored consistently high on tests measuring empathy or social intelligence. The theory is that literary fiction gets you to imagine the thoughts and emotions of complex characters — which exercises and strengthens your empathy muscles, boosting your ability to navigate real relationships in the real
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