Three thought-provoking ways to practice empathy

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Anthony Pica
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Three thought-provoking ways to practice empathy

Three thought-provoking ways to practice empathy

Emotional intelligence is a valuable set of skills for life. It's the ability to understand and regulate emotions to manage thoughts and actions. It can help you collaborate better, make smart decisions, and improve relationships.

There are two sides of the coin when it comes to emotional intelligence: self-awareness and empathy. Both can be developed over time with deliberate practice.

Here are three unusual ways to practice empathy:

1. Imagine you’re playing chess

In chess, it's important to understand what your opponent is thinking. You take their perspective and visualize their potential moves. If you can see five moves in the future, and they only see three, you have the advantage.

Before you collaborate with someone, imagine questions they might ask, and have answers prepared ahead of time. Predict their follow-up questions and think of how you'd respond.

My colleague "played chess" at an All Staff meeting. He predicted questions we might have about a new mobile security policy. He shared information and screenshots that answered our questions—before we even knew we had questions. As a meeting participant, I felt valued.

In chess, there can be only one winner, but in life everyone can win when we're proactive and care about relationships.

2. Evade the “curse of knowledge”

The curse of knowledge is a cognitive bias that's all too common among experts. It can be difficult to get out of your own head and think like a beginner again.

It's easy to assume our customers understand our jargon because it's familiar to us. And sometimes we assume our teammates understand us because we forget they don't share the same context.

When writing emails, try to remove ambiguity and add clarity. Even if it takes more time to create clarity up front, it'll save everyone time in the end.

3. Listen more than you speak

Attentive listening grants you perspective. Remember to listen to not only what's being said, but also how it's being said. Pay attention to body language because it can reveal more than words.

Ask a question, then listen. Repeat. You gain more perspective with every open-ended question you ask. The more perspective you have, the better equipped you are to collaborate effectively and provide advice.

I never allow myself to have an opinion on anything that I don't know the other side's argument better than they do.
— Charlie Munger, Vice Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway

Chess Anthony Pica

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