Exploring career mentoring and coaching
Exploring career mentoring and coaching

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Exploring career mentoring and coaching

2.1 Focusing on empathy

A key component of building rapport and trust is empathy. Watch this video by Brené Brown, which clearly explains the difference between empathy and sympathy.

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Transcript: Brené Brown on empathy

[SLURP]

[GASPS]

[MUSIC PLAYING]

DR. BRENE BROWN
So what is empathy? And why is it very different than sympathy? Empathy fuels connection. Sympathy drives disconnection. Empathy-- it's very interesting. Theresa Wiseman is a nursing scholar who studied professions-- very diverse professions-- where empathy is relevant, and came up with four qualities of empathy-- perspective taking-- the ability to take the perspective of another person or recognise their perspective as their truth; staying out of judgement-- not easy when you enjoy it as much as most of us do;

[LAUGHTER]

--recognising emotion in other people; and then communicating that. Empathy is feeling with people. And to me, I always think of empathy as this kind of sacred space-- when someone is in a deep hole, and they shout out from the bottom and they say, I'm stuck. It's dark. I'm overwhelmed. And then we look and we say, hey. I'm going to climb down. I know what it's like down here. And you're not alone. Sympathy is-- ooh!

[LAUGHTER]

It's bad. Aha.

[LAUGHTER]

Uh, no. You want a sandwich?

[LAUGHTER]

Um. Empathy is a choice. And it's a vulnerable choice. Because in order to connect with you, I have to connect with something in myself that knows that feeling. Rarely, if ever, does an empathetic response begin with, "at least."

[LAUGHTER]

I had a-- yeah. And we do it all the time. Because you know what? Someone just shared something with us that's incredibly painful, and we're trying to silver lining it. I don't think that's a verb, but I'm using it as one. We're trying to get the silver lining around it. So, I had a miscarriage. Oh. At least you know you can get pregnant. I think my marriage is falling apart. At least you have a marriage.

[LAUGHTER]

John's getting kicked out of school. At least Sarah is an A student. But one of the things we do sometimes in the face of very difficult conversations is we try to make things better. If I share something with you that's very difficult, I'd rather you say,

[SIGHS]

I don't even know what to say right now. I'm just so glad you told me. Because the truth is, rarely can a response make something better. What makes something better is connection.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

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While the majority of professional coaches will be empathetic people, coaches and mentors in the workplace might not necessarily have that skill. Are you empathetic? You might think that you can’t develop empathy if it doesn’t come naturally to you, but you can!

The Mind Tools content team (no date) have put together a useful check list to help you practise:

  • Put aside your viewpoint and try to see things from the other person’s point of view. They probably aren’t being unkind, stubborn or unreasonable, they are just reacting to a situation with the knowledge they have.
  • Validate the other person’s perspective. Once you ‘see’ why others believe what they believe, acknowledge it. You can accept that people have different opinions from your own, and that they may have good reason to hold those opinions.
  • Examine your attitude. Are you more concerned with getting your way, winning or being right? Or, is your priority to find a solution, build relationships and accept others? Without an open mind and attitude, you probably won’t have enough room for empathy.
  • Listen to the entire message that the other person is trying to communicate. What tone of voice is being used? What is the person doing with his or her body while speaking? What do you think the other person feels?
  • Ask what the other person would do. When in doubt, ask the person to explain his or her position.

While it isn’t your responsibility as the mentee or coachee to build this rapport and trust, you certainly play a key part in it. By understanding some of the ways in which mentors or coaches work to develop the relationship, you can play your part more effectively.

An understanding of these skills and techniques will also be beneficial in any of your own interactions with other people, both at work or in general life.

In the next section, you’ll look in more detail at listening and questioning skills.

MC_1

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