I have been described as many personality types in my life. That adaptability has been extremely helpful in my professional, academic, and personal life, but one trait that I lacked in my early career was empathy. Nobody can be a great leader without strong connections, and nobody can make strong connections without empathy. It is easy to connect with people that think like ourselves, but not always easy when the other person thinks completely opposite. If you find that you are only described as a type A or a logical type (neither of which are negatives in my opinion, but empathy is probably not as natural for you as other people), then you might want to take a few steps towards developing empathy. I made a conscious decision to work on it by following a few thoughts below.

If you do not understand why someone is acting the way they are acting, ask yourself what they are feeling. If you know what someone is feeling, then put yourself in their shoes, then, ask yourself why they are feeling that way. If you find that the answer is something that you can relate too, viola!, you have shown empathy for them. If you cannot relate and instead think, “Wow, they should not be feeling or acting that way,” then you still have some work to do. Keep practicing, I guarantee you will get there.

This needs to be an everyday occurrence, and once you get into the habit of asking yourself these questions, you will quickly find yourself being empathetic without having to consciously ask yourself these questions. This can sometimes be very difficult when we perceive the other person as overly emotional, but that is when this practice is absolutely vital.

Just like everything in life, we will not get good at something until we know we need to work on it, so ask yourself, is it easy for you to empathize with others?

There are people who act emotionally in various situations. If you are one of those people, I commend you because you are the ones that can easily relate to people and inspire a team towards shared values. If you are in that group, do you think it is difficult to empathize with data-driven personalities or controlling types?

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