The critical gap often missed when it comes to building empathy is confirming one’s understanding of the situation. You can try to put yourself in what you believe to be the other person’s shoes, but you are making an assumption that you know ‘their shoes.’ All you know is how you think you would feel if you were in their situation based on your lived experience, but that does not mean you understand what they think or how they feel. This is where the concept of building empathy as is often discussed does not fully stand up. It does not work if it is one-sided. It does not work if your interpretation, your assumption, is not correct. It takes two to build empathy.
Evidence shows colleagues will behave more like their best selves, more of the time, if leaders take a few modest steps to foster an environment where people’s brain’s aren’t overloaded—more focused on rewards than threats—and have their fundamental social needs met. With a little behavioral science in their toolkit, leaders can build a more productive team—and a happier one at that.