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Raising Your Empathy Quotient

Written by: Linda Watkins, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


There are many words in the emotional arena of empathy: compassion, sympathy, and caring are just a few. Yet empathy is unique in that it requires being able to “walk in someone else’s shoes.” To feel what someone else is feeling. To have a deep awareness of another.

Empathy loading written on white paper with processing symbol and pencil.

Did you know that we can experience the awareness of empathy by walking behind someone and mirroring their motions? Mind you, and I’m not talking about stalking! But the next time you’re walking behind someone at the mall or in a park, try discreetly imitating their movements and see what you notice.

The science behind it is that we are designed for empathy and have something called mirror neurons that enable us to be empathetic and get in sync with others.

It is said that the top leadership capacity needed today is empathy.

This came up during the pandemic. Company leaders could no longer focus strictly on numbers and analytical decisions. The workforce was suffering. It seemed everyone was suffering in some way or another. The challenge became how to feel empathy, or where to feel empathy for those who weren’t familiar with the capacity.

Unfortunately, empathy can come from having hardships, and many of us did during the pandemic. Center for Creative Leadership research found many years ago that surviving hardships made better senior leaders. I generally don’t recommend this approach to learn and believe there are better ways to become more empathetic. But sometimes we have no choice.

For many, the pandemic was the hardship approach. Employers had to understand when an employee was trying to work at a computer in a small apartment with two young children playing and crying. Schools and childcare facilities were not open. Family members and friends were dying at alarming rates. The changes affecting employees had a huge effect on employers. For example, regarding our current labor shortage, statistics just released show that women are finally back in the workforce at 75% of pre-pandemic levels but that without more changes, they might not stay.

A Catalyst study found that employees with empathetic leaders were 61% more likely to be innovative and 76% more likely to be engaged. Women were less likely to leave their companies, and 86% were more likely to have a better work/life balance.

Getting in touch with your empathy means becoming more self-aware and allowing yourself to feel. For busy executives, sometimes it may require slowing down and paying attention. Some may just need to take time to be reflective.

If you find it difficult to do this alone, find a professional coach or therapist who can help. Remember, your body is built to be empathetic, but many of us have a bad habit of overriding the messages our body wants to give us. We do it with health issues and ignore heart or cancer symptoms. And we do it with many emotional signals.

So, if you want to start becoming more empathetic, find ways to listen to your own body and try listening more deeply to others.

Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info! Read more from Linda!


Linda Watkins, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Linda Watkins Ph.D. is an executive and leadership coach with decades of experience helping leaders achieve personal and professional growth, including in new, creative, and future-oriented areas. She helps clients embody their leadership and become authentic, grounded, and future-ready. Many find her work transformational. Linda's passion for helping leaders thrive by developing new skills and capabilities has only grown as the world has become more complex. She and her company, Leadership for Today, are strong advocates for women and have been designing events that empower women for over 30 years.



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