“Leadership is about empathy. It is about having the ability to relate to and connect with people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives.”— Oprah Winfrey
Empathy is the ability to recognise, understand, and share the thoughts and feelings of another person, which enables us to connect with and support each other.
To be an empathic person requires self-empathy, this means having the ability and making the time to connect with yourself, your needs and wants, dreams and desires, values and beliefs, and your feelings and emotions, and consciously honouring them.
Why is self-empathy important?
To be able to gain a felt sense of what someone else may be feeling, we need to be in touch with our feeling and emotional world. If we are blocked or supressed, perhaps as a result of trauma, medication, or a psychological reason, we cannot truly sense another. This does not mean a person who is not able to self-connect cannot empathise; cognitive empathy allows people to intellectually assess how another person may be feeling, and appropriately and sensitively respond to this. However, emotional empathy opens up a whole new world of potential connection with another human being, and people can feel it when it is real.
When you are empathic to self, able to connect with your feeling and emotional world, you are able to ask yourself ‘what thoughts’ or ‘what beliefs’ are behind these feelings or emotions, facilitating mindfulness development, and the ability to master your thought processes, which enables you to guide your feeling and emotional world in the direction that supports your well-being. When you can do this, you are also better at self-regulating your emotions, which is essential to holding a safe space for difficult or sensitive conversations with another person. When a person cannot self-regulate, their own internal conflicts may be triggered and lead to emotional outbursts or inappropriate or unprofessional behaviours, that can damage a working relationship.
Self-empathy means that because you care to connect with you, you are more likely to hold compassion towards yourself, and being in this loving space makes you a stronger leader. Why? Because when you love you, and act on this love, you hold greater self-esteem and so you set healthy boundaries, manage your time and energy in a way that supports your well-being and performance, make healthy choices for your mind, body and soul, and create a way of living, being and working that aligns with your heart-centred values and your authentic self; you function better and inspire others. When you do this for you, you understand the value of this way of being; empathic, and it becomes very natural to extend this to others. When you operate in love for you, you operate in love for others, because, by the very nature of being, you are heart-centred, and so your inspired leadership grows.
For many years, I battled with severe trauma-related anxiety, which meant that I was disconnected from myself, indeed I was afraid to connect with my emotional world; afraid of overwhelm. I managed to connect with people on a cognitive level and I was not without emotional empathy; during focused moments with other people when I needed to truly listen and connect, I could sense their feeling and emotional world and it touched my inner world, because I was opening my heart. However, because I was afraid to feel, this would also trigger anxiety, which I would have to supress in that moment, so that I could be there for another, because I wanted to. The result of this way of being was worrying about the day I would not be able to supress my anxiety enough, and become emotional overwhelmed in front of a client, and then when feelings and emotions were touched, they did not stay present for long, I did not stay present for long, because I was afraid. I was living and working in fear, and this was not kind or healthy for me. When I finally made the brave choice to embrace my inner world, it was overwhelming, but because I choose it, because I wanted it, the overwhelm was manageable. My strength developed with the knowing that I was choosing bravery, I was choosing vulnerability, I was choosing to accept what was within me, and so I was proud of me because I had finally truly and authentically and at the most devastating time in my life, finally chosen to love, and to walk so authentically along the path I felt so passionate about. Now, I can be more present in love, which means all feelings and emotions are open, and I experience this as something truly beautiful and powerful; I am strong because I can be with all that I am and because I can be with all that I am, I can hold this space for you, sincerely, with acceptance and loving kindness.
If you or your organisation would like to enhance your empathy, and integrate more heart-centred values and behaviours, feel welcome to connect with me at: email@example.com
I am based in Sotogrande, Cadiz and run live workshops between Gibraltar and Malaga, or Globally via Zoom Conferencing.
You may be interested in ‘Lead with Love’ a group-based leadership programme for senior leaders and managers: https://www.antoniabehan.com/lead-with-love.html
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