Do you shoe shift?

Emotional intelligence in the workplace

em.pa.thy

the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner

As an employer I am always looking for the most valuable qualities that best suit my industry when hiring staff. 

One of those qualities is empathic intelligence, or shoe shifting.

The word empathy has German roots Einfühlung, meaning “feeling in.” And just as there are many ways to feel; there are multiple ways to experience empathy.

Working with clients who often suffer the physical and psychological effects of pain and trauma, empathy plays a huge role in how we communicate and how we problem solve with them. Shoe shifting allows us to work alongside them rather than above them and we walk the painful journey as a team, making small steps towards recovery, celebrating wins and supporting set backs.

But can empathy kill the vibe? Can we take too much on board and lose rationality? Absolutely, and I have both experienced it and seen it in play. 

We can break down empathy into different types. Lets look at it from 2 perspectives. 

Emotional empathy is hardwired into our brains. It’s a subconscious, deep emotive that connects us to all living things. Emotional empathy is what makes us feel so much for others in an emergency that we reach out and help, even if we don’t know the individual. Emotional empathy can also be when you feel what they feel, when you walk in somebody else shoes. It is contagious like laughter, crying and sadness. This empathy gives us physical sensations, is associated with mirror neurons in our brain and considers the person as a whole.

“Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another and feeling with the heart of another.”

Alfred Adler

Cognitive empathy is unique to humans. This is referred to as perspective taking. Cognitive empathy considers the situation and requires comprehension and understanding. This is more about understanding the persons feelings on an intellectual rather than feeling them on a primal one. Cognitive empathy is all about shoe shifting, foreseeing outcomes and acting accordingly. Shoe shifting gives us the ability to respond, guide and assist and this plays an important role in our job as employers, as educators, as facilitators. 

“If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from his angle as well as your own. ”

Henry Ford

Both types of empathy play essential roles and people with high emotional intelligence understand when it is appropriate to submit to emotional empathy and when a more rational, emotive free response is required. 

Working with injuries and pain, our EQ (emotional intelligence) can either empower or enslave someone and it is important to remember that our job is to serve, to educate and to set free, meaning cognitive empathy is one of your most valued assets. 

Cognitive intelligence requires maturity. It is a learned skill in the workplace that comes with experience. It reflects a broader and deeper capability for comprehending our surroundings—”catching on”, “making sense” of things, or “figuring out” what to do.

Practicing empathy daily will improve your chances of connecting with people, of finding solutions to their pain points and of understanding the work you do even better, creating a stronger community and more consistent outcomes. 

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