Thursday, April 19, 2012

Cultivating Empathy in the Workplace

PHOTO CAPTION: "Photo Courtesy of Flickr."
Marshall Rosenberg, the founder and director of educational services for the Center for Nonviolent Communication, an international peacemaking organization, states that "empathy is a respectful understanding of what others are experiencing."

Rosenberg, who is the 2006 recipient of the Global Village Foundation’s Bridge of Peace Award and has traveled all over the world helping others resolve conflicts, says that "instead of offering empathy, we often have a strong urge to give advice or reassurance and to explain our own position or feeling." He adds that, "Empathy, however, calls upon us to empty our mind and listen to others with our whole being."

I believe that empathy is about being fully present with another’s experience. When we are present we are not thinking about the laundry we need to do, the score of the baseball game or how we can get what we want. In Nonviolent Communication empathy involves imagining what the other person may be experiencing and more specifically what they may be feeling and deeply longing for or needing.

When we connect with that energy we connect with the divine energy in the other and what really matters to them.

Organizations that help individuals, families and the community are in a position of offering empathy and healing. But it is essential for these organizations to develop a culture of empathy within the organization.

Culture of Empathy
Just like it is important for an individual to develop the habit of self-care, it is essential for an organization to develop a culture of empathy for its staff. If employees’ buckets are on empty or close to empty they cannot give what is needed to clients.

An organization must practice from within what it wants to demonstrate to the public or will suffer for it. Every employee matters and every employee’s needs matter is the motto of a healthy organization. By listening with care to the concerns and needs of individuals in the organization the organization discovers ways to work together to better serve the community.

Finding creative ways to capture the needs of individuals and then connecting them to the larger needs of the organization as a whole meets a vital need for inclusion and participation. This motivates employees to be more committed to the vision and feel a part of the plan.

When directors, counselors, therapists and every employee in the organization puts their listening skills to work on each other and offer the same care they would offer a client, the organization is transformed from within.

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