I have always been intrigued by empathy because it helps people read the minds of others, something that came in handy as an FBI agent. When I listened to another person’s words and read their body language, I could piece together their thoughts and emotions.
Empathy is not sympathy, nor is it feeling sorry for others. Instead, it is understanding what others are feeling or thinking. It’s often described as the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes. It’s important to remember you’re experiencing how they feel in their shoes, not how you would feel in them!
There’s a tendency to regard empathy as a soft skill that’s “nice” to have but not essential. Empathic people are often described as warm and fuzzy, bleeding hearts, and compassionate. Nice characteristics but not the tough skills needed for negotiations, board meetings, and economic growth.
The U.S. Army, in an