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Enhancing Your Mindfulness & EQ: The ‘Empathy-First’ Approach

“By slowing it down, we go much further.”

Cameron Aggs

The ability to effectively respond to colleagues and clients who are stressed is a key executive skill. There are two approaches for managing the concerns of others. There is an empathy-first approach, which aims at helping a person feel understood and acknowledged. People typically end up being more productive sooner when they feel understood. There is also a ‘Solution-Focused’ approach, where you provide practical advice and solutions to assist people to find resolution to their issues. Ultimately, executives with exceptional communication skills master both approaches and use them flexibly as the situation calls for it.

“To connect with you, I need to connect with something inside of myself that knows that feeling"

Brené Brown

The ability to effectively manage the distress of staff and customers is a key leadership skill. There are two approaches for managing staff and customer concerns. There is an empathy-first approach which aims at helping distressed persons feel understood and acknowledged. People typically end up feeling better and behaving more adaptively when they feel deeply listened to. Alternatively, there is a ‘Solution-Focused’ approach, where we aim to provide practical advice and solutions to assist people to find resolution to their issues. Ultimately, leaders with exceptional communication skills master both approaches and use them flexibly as the situation calls for it.

At a glance

Empathy-first approach

  • Focus: Communicates your recognition of the other person’s subjective experience.
  • Advantage: Typically leaves the relationship stronger and the person better adjusted.
  • Limitation: It sometimes needs to be paired with effective solutions to be effective.

Solution-Focused Approach

  • Focus: Practical advice on solving the issue.
  • Advantage: Great when well timed. It leaves people feeling confident that there is a way forward.
  • Limitations: If done too soon or without sufficient empathy, it can leave the person feeling like they have not been adequately understood. This can lead to feelings of resentment and prolonged stress, even though the person may not show it.

Rule of Thumb: Start with empathy… finish with solution

Often times, the best way to get someone to connect with effective solutions is to lead with empathy. When people feel understood, they become more motivated and much better problem solvers. It's as if the emotional static clears, giving them better use of their brain, outside of the distorting impacts of emotional reactivity. 

Through attentively listening to the concerns of colleagues, clients and loved ones (and through checking your understanding), you will be in a much better position to co-create a solution that the other person can buy into. Doing this regularly will strongly enhance the relationship and your ability to influence the person in positive directions.

50 Word Reflective Challenge for KPMG!

Use up to 50 words to answer the following question:

Q: What does being mindful mean to you,

and how do you think you would benefit from

working through a coaching program?

Email Rebecca Otto your response

Enter the Reflective Challenge to Win the

The ‘EQ-1’ Executive Coaching Program with

Cameron Aggs - Usual Price $1595

What you win:
  • Pre-post wellbeing assessment.
  • 3 skype-based coaching sessions.
  • Ticket to 3-hour Professional Development Workshop.
  • Weekly emails and online program.
Targets:
  • Enhancing focus.
  • Preventing burnout.
  • Improving wellbeing.

Key Take-Aways

Emotional reactivity reduces blood flow to those regions of the brain associated with decision-making, planning and concentration.

People will accept your solutions more quickly if they feel understood and acknowledged in their current concerns.

When people are emotionally-charged, start with empathy, finish with solution.
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At Mindfulness Training Australia we are passionate about reducing the impacts of stress, perfectionism and role demand on the wellbeing and performance of executives.

Cameron Aggs (M. Clin. Psych.)

Director | Mindfulness Training Australia

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