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Empathy is often defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another; to identify and understand another’s situation, feelings and motives.

empathy-improves-your-influenceIt’s the skill of acknowledging concerns and feelings felt by others, putting yourself in their shoes.

Why should you be empathetic your business?

By putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes we understand better what they are thinking and feeling, why they are behaving or reacting as they do.  This builds understanding and rapport, starts to create a relationship of trust. When you are trusted, your opinions and information has more influence.

Empathy as a leadership skill

As an international manager, empathy skills can be extremely useful in managing and leading a cross-cultural team, especially if English is the main business language but is not every team member’s native tongue. With empathy you will know when your team understands you, or is unhappy.

With empathy, you understand them better and you can more easily influence them to follow your vision or instructions.

How can managers know how to make things easier for their multi-nationality teams if they haven’t experienced the same language difficulties themselves? Empathy by imagination is one answer. Empathy from experience is another: try using a foreign language yourself in an important meeting and you’ll discover a new empathy!

Empathy is not just for managers

If your manager has never conducted business in a foreign language, you might need to show your empathy skills. One way to be empathatic in this case could be in  suggesting to your manager how meetings might be made more productive.

Empathy ideas to improve meetings

Some ideas are:

  • give every team member the chance to speak in discussions and meetings
  • make sure Native English speakers don’t dominate conversations
  • make groups smaller to give less confident speakers more opportunity to contribute
  • ask your team individually if they would find it helpful to discuss the language question openly in the team and agree some new ground rules.

Empathy is like a muscle.  The more you practise the skills the stronger the muscle becomes. Try some of these suggestions and watch the reactions of those you work with. I hope you notice some positive results.

For more tips about improving your English and using English for Business, download your free copy of our “International Business Tips” e-book.  If you work internationally, you’ll find the practical tips useful – for meetings, presentations and conference calls.

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