One of the key aspects of Emotional Intelligence is Empathy. People with high levels of empathy are said to be typically good at trying to understand things from another persons perspective i.e. not being too quick to judge others or their actions without first trying to see things from their point of view. Such people also tend to be good at showing compassion and understanding for other people’s situations and, as a result, tend to react in a more appropriate manner giving their appreciation of the current circumstances that the other person may be in.
I read an interesting article recently, from an Emotional Intelligence writer, who pointed out that people with higher levels of Emotional Intelligence (specifically empathy) are more likely to pay attention to the safety briefing on an aircraft, no matter how many times they have seen it before. Those with empathy deliberately choose to pay attention, even though they know they are very unlikely to learn anything new, having seen the briefing dozens of times before. They pay attention because they want to show empathy and understanding to the people delivering the message, who are doing it as a requirement of their role, even though they realise that few people are genuinely interested.
Those people show empathy to the crew because they know that by paying attention, it will make it easier for the crew to do their job.
Imagine being one of the cabin crew, briefing hundreds of people sat in front of you, none of whom are looking at you or paying the slightest bit of attention to your critical safety briefing. People with empathy stop to think from the others perspective and then choose to react accordingly.
Of course, that is just one example, but as we all go through our daily routines, both at home and at work, we engage with many different individuals, all carrying out their role or tasks, some of whom we risk taking for granted because we haven’t stopped to think, just for one moment, what it might be like to be them, walking in their shoes today. If we do take a moment, we may just be able to show a greater depth of empathy. The people we encounter may just be doing their job and even helping us have a better day, but how often do we consider walking in their shoes? How many people do we meet and keep on meeting each day and how individual do we make the experience?
Perhaps, on reflection, we take some people for granted. Lacking in empathy doesn’t make us bad people, of course not, but developing our empathy can not only enrich the lives of others, it can also enrich our own lives, as we take in and appreciate more of the things going on around us. This in turn helps us to see the value in what other people contribute to society as a whole, but also to understand things from the others perspective.
This brings me to my final point. When someone chooses to apologise for something that they have done, we should consider showing them some empathy. Stand where they stand, try to recognise that it may be a big deal for them to be apologising, taking great courage and demonstrating significant humility, aside from them admitting their mistake – then find it within ourselves to forgive (and move on). The gravity of the deed being apologised for will have some bearing, of course, but few things are truly unforgivable – and if we choose not to forgive, for that very reason, then hopefully, the other person will have enough empathy to understand why.