Empathy and communication


Empathy is vital for good communication.

The dictionary defines it as “the quality or process of entering fully, through imagination, into another’s feelings or motives.” In the fullest sense, it implies putting yourself into the other person’s shoes, or even getting into his or her skin, so that you really understand them.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” 

To kill a mockingbird, Harper Lee

Consider these suggestions for being empathetic as you communicate your ideas:

  • Successful communication is a two-way processPeople must present their ideas in a form others can understand, and they must, in turn, listen to others to understand how the message is received.
  • Organise your ideas. Present your ideas in an organised way. Be sure your ideas and your thinking are crystal clear to you. Write them down. Arrange them in light of what you know about others. When you’re absolutely certain you’ve organised your ideas, you can be more confident they will be understood and accepted.
  • Tap into people’s interests. Present your ideas to others in a form that highlights their benefits. Strive to understand people’s needs and expectations and phrase your ideas in those terms to communicate effectively.
  • Paint a picture. Some words appeal to emotions, desires and needs. Other words appeal to reason and fact. Words of both emotion and logic can contribute to painting pictures of ideas. Recognise the needs of others and express your ideas in words that form a mental picture that promises to supply those needs.
  • Vary your communication style. Use the communication style most comfortable and familiar to your listener. Adjust your style to enable your listener to understand and accept your message without the need to “translate” it. When you’re working on a team, be aware of the communication styles that are different from yours and capitalise upon the strengths of those differences.

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