Implement Conscious Empathy with Good Questions

It would be great to have all of the answers – no worrying, no wrong choices, no disappointing decisions. However, that is not life and certainly not how we discover new methods of thinking. We create learning when we are able to think differently or approach an issue with a mindset that says “Let’s see what happens if we do it this way…”

Whether the issue is one of personal or professional development, experimentation is how you discover what you think you like, what you really like, or reassess what your values are at different stages in time.

The only thing we have all agreed upon in the last two years is that we have to be more psychologically flexible to adapt to constantly changing circumstances at a lightning pace.

That does not mean that it is comfortable. Uncertainty and instability are the opposite of the brain’s natural functioning and desire for control.

In the workplace, we are just beginning to discover the importance of working in supportive environments – rather than an open office layout – that can help us to perform better. Creating a remote workforce, hybrid, or bringing everyone back is going to be a long-term research question for your specific context. There will be no way to measure the ROI for at least 12 months.

As you consider that we are all experimenting, begin with yourself.

What do I want from my work environment?

What is more important – my salary, my power, or my values?

Once you have chosen an area – ask yourself the big question: Why?

For most people, a new ‘why’ came courtesy of the last two years.

If you manage or lead people, consider that their why has also changed.

Do you know what it is? Have you tried to imagine it from their perspective? Have you asked them if it has changed?

Have you asked employees what job crafting or professional development might be helpful to help them to work from that place of new priority?

This is one way to implement psychological flexibility in leadership behavior – the willingness to expand the way we think about what do.

It is the application of conscious empathy to not only imagine what someone else feels, but a way to communicate to them that you are interested in hearing more. It moves leadership from the thinking stage to empathetically taking action that will help to engage the employee, provide more job satisfaction, and intrinsic motivation. The one-to-one conversation shows respect and helps trust to develop.

As a leader or manager, you are responsible to coach that employee to the level of their interest and potential even if it differs from yours. Whether in title or not, a non-threatening conversation between colleagues and hearing someone else’s perspective is always a great bonding tool.

Choices in your behavior and awareness – such as actively giving your attention, listening without distractions, and seeking ways to creatively seek solutions together – are conscious empathy at work.

Photo by Alexander Suhorucov