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Empathy Is A Powerful Emotional Intelligence Skill That Helps Us Better Understand People Around Us

Updated: Feb 28, 2023

We'll be able to shift our mindset and emotions from negative to positive just by being empathetic towards people around us!

Story about my acquaintance

Let me introduce you to an acquaintance of mine. His name is Michael (not his real name) and I’ve known him for a few years now. We met at a business transaction where he represented the ‘other side’. We were never hostile towards each other throughout the course of the transaction and we made things happen premised on the notion that everyone should win (win-win situation) in any transaction. With mutual respect for each other, we continued to keep in touch even after completion of the transaction and over time we got to know each other better.

Recently, I’ve come to realise Michael’s character and trait- the way he behaves, the way he communicates and the way he thinks. I am now aware of how he frequently brags about his achievements and who he knows, how rigid he is in his mindset and believes (he won’t shy away from repeatedly arguing his points and rationale until he wins) and how he positions himself as the centre of attraction (he craves attention and the limelight) at events and gatherings etc. I also found out (not to my surprise) that many people find him annoying.

Initially, I too felt annoyed. Upon further reflection on my part, I realised he’s probably insecure about himself and hence he overcompensates to ensure he remains relevant and important to people around him. While he doesn’t belittle others, he self-promotes most of the time to look good and appear superior to others. Both may be different but the underlying objective is the same- it makes the person look good and superior.

While I know he’s competent at work, he is probably low in the emotional intelligence department, which results in his unawareness of his insecurity and how that emotion affects his actions, the consequences especially how he makes people around him feel and how that might affect his relationships.

I empathise with him

He’s quite senior (C-Suite level) at his company so perhaps he’s just trying to protect his comfortable position. I understand it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there and he has decided to play the survival of the fittest and strongest game to remain relevant and important. Feeling insecure can sometimes drive a person to behave inappropriately or irrationally.

Could there be other ways for him to remain relevant and important? Absolutely. How might feeling confident instead of insecure change the way he behaves, communicates and thinks? How might awareness of the negative impact of what he feels and does help him be a better version of himself? How might improving his relationships help him achieve his objectives, both professional and personal?

With empathy, I no longer feel annoyed with Michael. I’m happy I’ve managed to shift my mindset and emotions from negative to positive just by being empathetic towards him. If I had remained in the negative state, my annoyance could have snowballed to anger, and that could have been disastrous for our relationship. With empathy, I feel I’m better able to manage myself and my relationship with Michael. Upon further reflection, I feel empathy is certainly an important and powerful emotional intelligence skill that will help me better understand people around me and improve my relationships.

Time for self-reflection

Below are some questions for you to ponder and reflect on…

1. When was the last time you felt empathetic towards someone?

2. What happened when you felt empathetic towards the person?

3. How did that impact you?

4. How did that make you feel?

5. How do you feel about being empathetic in your daily life?


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