Essence of Empathy

by Ron Potter
Image source: aotaro Creative Commons

Image source: aotaro Creative Commons

I’ve written about and will continue to write about the elements that help create great teams. Two aspects of great teams is patience and kindness. I believe you can combine those two words to roughly reflect the meaning of the word empathy.

Geoff Colnin in his September 2014 column for Fortune Magazine exposes some research by the University of Michigan and University of Rochester Medical Center that says, “Empathy among American college students has declined significantly over the past 30 years.” The chart shows about a 13% drop since the early 90’s but indicates a much more rapid decline in the last 10 years.

Another telling factor in Colnin’s column was identifying that a significant number of online postings for jobs that paid more than $100,000 per year listed empathy or empathetic traits as job requirements.

I have been emphasizing the need for strong face-to-face relationship building for years with my corporate clients. One line from Alvin Toffler’s book Future Shock from years ago has always stuck with me. That line was, “High tech, high touch.” His point was not to assume that the increase in technology was going to diminish the need for personal relationships, the need for personal relationships was going to increase right along with the technical capabilities.

Colvin summed it up nicely with, “we have evolved exquisitely to connect in person. Consider what happens when you’re near someone and his or her face displays an emotion fleetingly, through a so-called micro-expression. Your own face mimics that expression within milliseconds, and the other person, in turn, detects your response.  You have empathized without either one of you being aware of it.”

You are obviously aware of it, just maybe not consciously. But you’ve connected. It’s personal. It’s real. And it doesn’t happen through email or text or Facebook or whatever electronically. It happens personally. It happens humanly.

To build great teams we must be patient, we must be kind. We must empathize with each other. And that only happens face-to-face.

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1 comment

High Tech, High Touch - Team Leadership Culture June 11, 2015 - 10:02 am

[…] referred to that line, “High tech, high touch,” from Alvin Tofflers book Future Shock often.  Toffler defined “Future Shock” as […]


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