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Empathy

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When exploring empathy Organisational Management adopts the position explained by Alfred Korzybsky “The map is not the territory”.  This statement reflects the fact that people do not deal with reality, that the mental filters we use to process the world around create our own personal perspectives of reality or ‘maps’.  Therefore if we really want to empathise with others we must demonstrate that we understand their ‘map’ of the world. 

 

When two parties have a severe disagreement with their observations, they should always be on the alert for a disagreement not of fact but of ‘maps’.  Almost always that is the explanation for the disagreement.  The individuals are normally looking at the same things but using a different set of filters to examine the information; and, as a result, they see things differently. 

If the aforementioned skills provide an emphasis on introspective development the skills of empathy and managing relationships provide an external perspective focussing upon how we interact with others and how we can ensure that both parties maximise the outcomes of these interactions.

 

The skill of empathy is often encased in the term “placing oneself in the shoes of another”. Whilst this provides basic definition, in itself this does not provide sufficient understand of how to act in an empathetic manner.  Organisational Management's experience has highlighted that although many people can state a definition of empathy, they often fail to adapt their behaviour in a congruent way.

 

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Therefore when disagreement occurs, there is a requirement to be quiet and listen.  Almost always one party will sooner or later state what his or her ‘map’ is, and once the other party can demonstrate understanding, they then achieve insight into why the other person behaves the way they do.  Importantly, empathy is not about agreeing with another persons ‘map’, however if we understand each other’s perspective it become easier to establish a way to work together.

 

This fundamental concept of different ‘maps’ can be explained as the main factor in what are termed ‘personality clashes’ within the workplace.

 

Developing empathy is a core element of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “Seek to Understand then to be Understood”.

 

Many of today’s business analysts proclaim that we are in the age of communication.  Whilst it is true that never before have individuals had so much access to information, the greatest challenge remains in the ability to be able to deliver a message effectively so that others understand it.