Empathy is a key component of every leader’s emotional intelligence.  Covey calls it “seeking to understand.”  Imagine how different you would lead if you took time to gain the perspective of your boss, a peer, co-worker, or direct report. Some confuse empathy with agreement, but understanding does not require agreement.   It does require consideration.  The ability to put yourself in the shoes of someone else can shift your perspective in powerful ways.  Empathy eases the tension of everyone’s position and opens thinking for the best possible outcome.

Consider this approach. The next time you are preparing for a difficult conversation put yourself in the shoes of the other person and ask yourself, “what does (name of the person) need from me?”  Jot down your thoughts.  Next ask yourself, “What do I need from (name of the person)?”  Jot down your thoughts.  Compare the lists, look for common needs.  Begin the conversation there.

If there are no common needs, begin the conversation with what you think the person needs from you.  Check your thinking and get clarity.  Share your needs, and move the conversation forward from there. Feeling understood brings down walls and fuels progress. I recently heard a line in a movie that seems appropriate here, “When needs align, things get done.”