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The Project Management Institute's annual events attract some of the most renowned and esteemed experts in the industry. In this blog, Global Conference, EMEA Congress and experienced event presenters past, present and future from the entire PMI event family share their knowledge on a wide range of issues important to project managers.

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Te Wu
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Michelle Stronach
Sydni Neptune
Laura Samsó
Marcos Arias
Cheryl Lee
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Jeannette Cabanis-Brewin
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Viewing Posts by Chris DiBella

The Art of Empathy: Cultivating More Effective Communication in the Workplace

By: Christopher DiBella, MBA, CSM

Within the definition of empathy – the ability to understand and share the feeling of others – our feelings are invoked. We must connect, listen, show compassion, and truly hear what someone else is trying to say while stepping into their shoes to gain a better understanding of their subjective experience. Empathy goes beyond wondering, “How would I feel in someone else’s situation?” to listening to how that person thinks, feels, and understands their own environment. Empathy is grasping facts, feelings, and significance of another person’s story, but more than just understanding others, empathy is the ability to convey that understanding through our words, gestures, and even our facial expressions.

Does our body language say we care? Or do we seem disinterested? Are we focusing our undivided attention on that person? Or do we seem more interested in other things taking place around us? Empathy involves creating a safety net for those who are sharing their experiences. We must remember that their story is about them, and not about how we feel about what they are sharing. Furthermore, being able to communicate your accurate perceptions to another person involves finding ways to let them know you are there to support them without any predetermined notions or biases you may have.

We have this inherent instinct (either consciously or unconsciously) that we immediately know how to solve everyone else’s problems. In fact, it’s almost human nature for us to feel this way. However, when people are sharing something with us – either a bad experience or some other heartfelt emotion – they are looking for more than a quick fix to their problem. They want someone who understands and empathizes with them when they need it most, which involves the receiver becoming more self-aware of their own empathy skills. By becoming more self-aware, we can then improve the perception of how others view our empathy skills. In turn, this will help to strengthen bonds between employees and create a stronger company culture.

Empathy is no longer a soft skill. In fact, it’s one of the hardest to learn. It requires compassion, consideration, and genuinely caring and understanding what someone else is going through and wanting to help them through it. When trying to understand what someone else may be going through, there is an invisible boundary, or set of limits, that we need to be aware of so we can identify whether we fall within the box of full understanding and awareness of how someone else feels. Simply going through something similar does not necessarily put you in someone else’s shoes for how they may be feeling, but it gives you an emotional starting point to build a high level of rapport and trust.

Everyone has the power and the ability to change the dynamic of their environment, as well as the world we live in. And the most powerful tool you have at your disposal is the belief in the idea that you can make your environment better for everyone in it. Within that belief is the notion of starting a movement that can change the lives of everyone, including yourself, but that belief is meaningless if you decide not to act upon it. Maybe some of you have even already tried to implement this belief into others, and maybe it was rejected for whatever reason, but there still needs to be a conscious effort made to gain a better understanding of how to implement empathy into your respective environments in a sincere and genuine manner.

I will be presenting a session entitled “The Art of Empathy: Cultivating More Effective Communication in the Workplace” on 12 November. This engaging presentation will look at the most underrated (yet most powerful) skill you need in the workplace today. Understanding and sharing the feelings of others requires more than just voicing your thoughts and opinions on a topic, but rather it involves active listening skills for you to provide the appropriate level of support needed. We will also look at empathy mapping to help find the right balance of cognitive, emotional, and compassionate empathy you can use to develop stronger bonds in the workplace, and touch on key topics such as:

  • Why empathy is important and why it is a must-needed skill in the workplace.
  • How body language, tone of voice, pacing, and other verbal cues impact the experience of others.
  • How to demonstrate reflective listening.
  • Applying techniques to increase listening skills.
  • Relating to disheartened, confused, and disgruntled stakeholders through empathy.

In this session, attendees will gain a better understanding of how and why empathy can improve organizational culture through practical application, and then use empathy for changing behaviors and building better relationships while boosting their own critical-thinking skills. Key learning objectives and takeaways include:

  • Develop an action plan using empathy mapping to improve empathy skills.
  • Apply techniques to increase listening skills.


Interested in learning more and furthering the dialogue? Join me on November 12 at 10:05am EST at the PMI® Virtual Experience Series event for this presentation and take part in the conversation with me and the rest of the PM community.

Posted by Chris DiBella on: October 27, 2020 12:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

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