Empathy

What makes us human

As we were growing up, somewhere along the way, we learnt to keep our emotions in check. We learnt to be rational and practical. Emotions were not seen as helping the rational brain but rather interfering with it. If on that rare occasion you got emotional at work, you were told by your boss and peers “Don’t be emotional”, “Think logically”. No wonder emotions got a raw deal.

But whether we like it or not, we humans are driven by our emotions. In fact, that’s what makes us human and not robots. Research in Neuroscience is uncovering how emotions play a significant role in how we behave, interact and take decisions. This could explain why the last time you went to buy a phone - you invested a lot of time researching online the latest Android phone for features and price, only to end up buying an iPhone! Baba Shiv, Professor of Marketing at Stanford Graduate School of Business school puts it aptly – “What it’s good at (the rational brain) is to rationalize what the emotional brain has already decided”.

Well, does that mean the next time you are angry with someone, you lash out because that’s the emotion you feel? Definitely not! What this situation demands is Emotional Intelligence in the form of higher Self-Regulation.

#FC2E #EQ #emotionalintelligence #Sumaninsights

What do you feel?

smiley-2979107.jpg

Each of us have two distinct sides – a rational side and an emotional side. The rational sides deals with thoughts while the emotional side deals with feelings. Let me ask you a question – ‘What are you feeling right now?’ Simple question, right? But many, in fact I would say most of us, struggle to give a proper response.

As part of a check-out process in our workshops, we often ask this question. And the responses often are ‘It was a good session’ or ‘We should do these sessions more often’. When pointed out that we are seeking feelings, the responses change to very standard ones such as ‘good’ or ‘happy’.  Interestingly, thoughts are sometimes disguised as feelings – ‘I feel I have learnt a lot today!!’ or ‘I feel I will practice this regularly’!

If you are one of those workshop participants, known to you or otherwise, various emotions are going through your body during the wrap-up as you reflect back to answer that question . Maybe you feel engaged or excited with what you learnt. Maybe you feel more confident to apply the learnings. Maybe the training inspired you and you are more hopeful of the future. Or you could be grateful to your manager for sending you for this training. You could also be feeling calm or rejuvenated.

Equally natural would be for you to feel certain negative feelings. You may be confused after the training about next steps. Or apprehensive whether the learnings will work in real-life. Or tense about an escalation that happened while you were attending the workshop. Or just plain tired or exhausted. 

Human beings are emotional by nature. While all those above emotions are very much present in each one of us, we have conditioned ourselves to suppress the feelings. Hence, we are often not in touch with them. Recognizing our emotions is not something that we are taught growing up. Worse, emotions are given a low second place below the rational. It earns a bad name. At work, if a co-worker is upset over something, we try to calm him down by saying – ‘Don’t get emotional’ or ‘Get a grip on yourself’.

Thanks to all of those reasons, we struggle to name what we feel. It is only when we are mindful and reflective and take a moment to recognize what we are feeling; will those start surfacing again. But you might ask - why is it important to be in touch with our feelings? It is because only when we are more aware of our own emotions, are we able to empathize with the feelings of others and thereby build more meaningful relationships.

So, here’s a small exercise for you - just take a brief pause from what you are doing and think what you are feeling, right now. Feels good?

What else are you feeling?

#FC2E #EQ #EmotionalIntelligence #SumanInsights

Emotional Contagion

It’s 9am on a Monday morning. You’ve had a nice relaxing weekend and are fully charged for the day and week ahead. You walk into the conference room for the weekly staff meeting and find everyone is smiling, joking and talking about how their weekend went. As others stroll in, they instantly feel the energy in the room.

Then, the inevitable happens. The boss walks into the meeting looking down and tense, and even before he says a word, his body language itself is enough to suck the life out of the room. The conversation that was in progress comes to an abrupt halt. Sounds familiar? Welcome to the world of emotional contagion.

Emotional contagion is the phenomenon of having one person's emotions and related behaviours directly trigger similar emotions and behaviours in other people. Neurologically speaking, emotional contagion is explained by means of mirror neurons which are involved in empathy. It is as though this neuron adopts the other person’s point of view.

Emotional contagion has huge implications in the world of business. We often come across managers who complain that their teams have all the resources, tools and database, but appear to lack energy. What they fail to realize is that the team’s energy is a direct reflection of the manager’s energy, thanks to emotional contagion. And leaders, because of the position they hold, exert a disproportionate impact on the moods and feelings of their team members.

So, if you are a leader or in a leadership position, remember, your emotions and behaviours can lead to tangible ripple effects in your teams and organizations.

#FC2E #EQ #EmotionalIntelligence #SumanInsights

What constitutes a great leader

iStock_000009054142_Small.jpg

This one caught my attention. For one, the research findings were very interesting and goes against most conventional thinking. And it was done by Google, undoubtedly one of the world’s most powerful companies today.

The study (https://www.inc.com/michael-schneider/google-did-an-internal-study-that-will-forever-change-how-they-hire-and-promote-.html), on what constitutes a great leader, found that employees appreciate managers who care for them both professionally and personally.

Did you say ‘personally’? Oh, but for many of us, that’s a complete no-no in a professional setting, right?. We are trained to take care of our people professionally, by 1:1 sessions on Personal Development Plan, appraisal meetings, identifying trainings and what not.

But if it comes to connecting with them personally, being genuinely interested in their well-being is something that we don’t think is necessary or even appropriate in an office setting. And this is where emotional intelligence plays a critical role in a manager who is able to make the cut to a great leader. Because having EQ gives one the ability to better understand and empathize with people around them.

An empathetic response

iStock_000026265682_Small.jpg

A dear friend of mine was going through a rough patch. Many a times, we would chat and I would try my best to give him the right advice. Our other friends would also do the same. But often I felt, all that advice was falling on deaf ears. Maybe he was too troubled and unable to think clearly and make sense of it all. But then again, was the issue only with him and was there something I could do differently?

I realised I felt for him and I was being sympathetic. Sympathy by itself is not a bad thing but it does not build emotional connection. Clearly, I was lacking in empathy here. When we are sympathetic, we often try to improve the situation. When a friend shares something that is very painful, we try to put a silver lining around it. We try to make things better. However, it can have the opposite effect. The fact of the matter is, if someone shares something really difficult with you, he or she would rather you say, ‘I don’t even know what to say’ than ‘Don’t feel bad’, or worse, be judgemental by saying, ‘You should not feel that way’. 

Rarely can a response by itself make the situation better. What makes it better is connection. And that is what makes empathy so powerful.