Every human being is unique. Not only do you have DNA distinct from everyone else in the world, but you also have your own unique feelings, thoughts, and perspectives. It is oftentimes the misunderstandings around those feelings, thoughts, and perspectives that lead to conflict. Conflict is an inevitable part of life. How you respond to it is the true test. Some people choose to let it go; however, over time unresolved conflict can wreak havoc on a relationship.
Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Putting yourself in the other person’s shoes has the ability to offer you a different perspective. It may help you to understand why the person did what they did or said what they said. For example, if an employee’s tour of duty is 7:30am until 4:00pm, but he usually doesn’t hurriedly arrive until 7:50am. A conversation may reveal that the employee has to drop his child off at the daycare center every morning. The day care center doesn’t open until 6:30am and his commute is 70 minutes on a good day. Unfortunately, his wife isn’t able to assist because she works the graveyard shift and doesn’t get home until 8:00am. Depending on the nature of the employee’s work responsibilities, a relatively simple solution may be to adjust the employee’s work hours to 8:00am until 4:30pm. This would allow the employee to have a less stressful commute instead of worrying about being late. This would likely also free up the employee to be more productive instead of worrying about whether the late arrivals will negatively impact upon his performance review.
Empathy has the ability to open the heart and mind. Making an effort to try to genuinely understand one another can lead to greater compassion and decision making for the greater good, instead of being purely self-serving.
It is no doubt that resolving conflict through empathy can be hard work. Hard truths will be exposed. You may hear some things that hurt your feelings, but more likely than not, you will learn a great deal about yourself as well as the other person. Nonetheless, an open dialogue is necessary to collaboratively explore issues and solutions. Are you ready to join this journey for developing higher emotional intelligence?