02-4 Build Empathy and Commitment

Build Empathy and Commitment

pencilIn this sub-unit we deal with empathic communication and a generally committed attitude.

Empathy and commitment are essential characteristics of successful and highly effective people. Why? It may not be obvious on first sight why we should experience the feelings of another, to paraphrase the description of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, or why we should feel committed not only to our own cause but also to the cause of another.

em•pa•thy n : the experiencing as one’s own of the feelings of another; also : the capacity for this — em•path•ic adj

© 1995 Zane Publishing, Inc. Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Please be aware that I am not talking about a mere tactics to impress others. I am not talking about faking those qualities. If we do that, we can be sure that it won’t work. Dr. Covey, in The Seven Habits speaks about the differences between the Character Ethics and the Personality Ethics. The latter was the predominant management teaching method in the 1960s and ’70s. It can be called the era of quick-fixes. There were (and still are) thousands of books and booklets on the market that basically say: If you only follow this method, you will achieve this, you will have success with that, and so on.

As a general rule, these books don’t say that you have to be honest and really mean what you practice, that you have to live by the values you practice, that you should walk your talk. They just pretend that if you do A, you will get B.

However, it’s not that simple. We are taken for what we stand for, and what we communicate on an underlying level, namely through our body language, through our daily attitude, through many little details in our behavior, our character setup, our way to relate and to organize. We constantly project inner values outside and they are reflected in others who respond to them, often without really identifying consciously what they are responding to. Our environment and other people do respond to our projections.

This is what Dr. Covey calls the Character Ethics. If our ethics and the way we live by it, daily reflects our character and inner values, it’s not a superficial thing, but a deep and rich inner experience that we project and that others perceive. Therefore, if we want it or not, we always also enter into an emotional relationship with other people, and as a result, there is always a basics for empathy.

Being empathic and committed means that we speak with our heart, that our heart is open and receptive, that we are human and want to be and remain human. It is namely not the attitude of the righteous perfectionist who says I know what I do is always right, now what do you want? It’s more like Let’s see if there is some basis of human understanding between us. We may feel in many ways the same or there may be common values that we share. Let’s communicate about that and see if we can find some basic agreement on that before we continue.

This is basically the way to achieve synergy. It is by:

  • Taking the first step and opening up (being pro-active);
  • Putting ourselves and others on an equal level (win-win);
  • Communicating through our basic inner values and our heart.

Furthermore, commitment means to be careful with promises in order to cherish the emotional bond and the trust level that has been built up in the relationship. It means to either carry out what was promised, or better not to promise anything.

With this step, we are at the end of Unit 2 and ready to engage in the details of communication training.


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