Empathy and the Highly Sensitive Entrepreneur

Empathy is the ability to identify what another person is experiencing and to know what that must be like; to “get into another’s shoes.” The research and body of literature on Emotional Intelligence have exploded since the mid 1990’s and continue to grow and be refined. Considerable discussion and debate have taken place about the scope of competencies, skills, or traits that make up Emotional Intelligence. Research and learning from applications are deepening our knowledge and giving the field greater focus. Three primary constructs have emerged in the literature and assessment tools are based upon each with considerable overlaps. These include:*

  • Personality trait model (Daniel Goleman)
  • Ability or cognitive model (Mayer, Salovey, & Caruso) and
  • Development model (Saarni)

Several other well-developed and researched disciplines inform and validate the construct of Emotional Intelligence. Some of these include Social Competence, Alexithymia, Social Intelligence, Resilience, Psychological Mindedness, and Levels of Emotional Awareness.*

* The Handbook of Emotional Intelligence, Reuven Bar-On editor, 2000, Jossey-Bass

Empathy at an optimal fitness level in the workplace sounds like this:

You have a highly-developed ability to understand what others are experiencing even when they are either challenging you or requesting something from you that may seem excessive. Even though you may feel uncomfortable with either the challenge or the request, you seem to be able to understand and feel compassion for what the other person is thinking, wanting, and feeling. You are able to put yourself in their shoes and experience what that must be like.

The advantage of being able to retain a high level of empathy in the face of challenge, threats, and demands in the work environment, and especially as the leader, is that you most likely have the ability to listen to others even when you are under stress and not necessarily feeling comfortable yourself. You can manage your own feelings sufficiently to “lean-in” and genuinely listen to the other. Highly-developed empathy understanding helps you stay in contact with others even when the waters are rough and the interactions are stressful. Others most likely experience you as sensitive and supportive. This skill is essential for creating positive work relationships, for effective leadership, and for mentoring others. It can have a powerful leavening effect in reducing anxiety of the other, a group, and/or an entire organization.

-This article was cited from the “EQ In-Action Profile” by Learning in Action Technologies, INC.