Lunch and Learn with Lindsay – Issue 110 – Emotional Intelligence and Empathy

Welcome to the fifth in this Series covering Emotional Intelligence (EI).

We’ve now covered 3 of the 5 domains that make up Emotional Intelligence – namely Self Awareness, Self Regulation and Motivation. 

In this issue we’ll cover Empathy and advise on what you can do to improve your EI in this domain.


Daniel Goleman identifies 5 key elements of empathy, namely

1. Understanding Others
2. Developing Others
3. Having a service orientation
4. Leveraging Diversity and
5. Political Awareness

1.  Understanding Others

This is what most people understand by empathy.  In Goleman’s words this is “sensing others feelings and perspectives and taking an active interest in their concerns.”

It’s like “stepping into someone elses shoes” which we’ve shared before as a creative problem solving technique.

You need to be able to tune into emotional cues and listen well.  Pay attention to non-verbal communication.  The best listening is done “with your eyes” so ensure you can see the body language of the person you are communicating with.  In person/face to face communication is the optimum.  

Appreciate what’s happening in someone else’s world and use phrases like

“I can see….” or “I hear what you’re saying…” or “I’m sensing that…”

Use your imagination as an EI conduit.  You know the benefit of employing “creative visualisation”  to imagine what it will be like when you’ve achieved an outcome so already appreciate the power of your mind.   Now use your imagination and image what someone else might be feeling in a given situation. 

2. Developing Others

This means acting on the needs and concerns of others and helping your team members to develop to their full potential.  In practical terms this means:

Rewarding and praising your team for their strengths and accomplishments

Providing feedback on how they can improve and

Providing opportunities for your team to stretch themselves and develop. 

Refamiliarise yourself with the Feedback models I shared for Feedback to Self here.

3. Having a Service Orientation

Primarily focused on work situations, this is about putting the needs of your customers first and seeking ways to improve their satisfaction and resulting loyalty. 

This is about “going the extra mile”, genuinely understanding customers needs and going out of your way to help them. 

The result here is that you become a “trusted advisor” to customers and you cement a long-term relationship that results in their loyalty.

Now replace the word “customer” with your Executive(s) name throughout this section!

4. Leveraging Diversity

This is about being able to create and develop opportunities through different kinds of people.  It’s about recognising and celebrating that we all have something unique to contribute and bring to the table.

This is about tailoring the way you interact with others to fit with their needs and feelings. 

It draws on being respectful and being able to relate to everyone regardless of their background. 

It’s about considering diversity as an opportunity – appreciating that diverse teams work better than teams that are more homogeneous. 

5.  Political Awareness

“Political” in this sense is about sensing and responding to a group’s emotional undercurrents and power relationships. 

Ask yourself: How do things really get done around here? Who really has the power to make decisions? And who acts on these decisions?

Above all else, to develop your EI in the “Empathy” domain favour curiosity over judgment.  Human nature is such that we tend to judge situations rather than remaining curious. Curiosity is the foundation to all learning so it’s important to ensure you remain open minded in situations (particularly challenging ones).  This will ensure you foster empathy and can understand situations from different perspectives.   



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