Hearing the 90%

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Hearing the 90%

The surprising use of empathy

Emotional intelligence is a well-accepted and desirable trait among leaders and successful professionals whereas empathy is considered one of the softer skills. Empathy is actually a fairly recent word in the English language and first showed up in the 1900s and is derived from the German word Einfühlung.

Sympathy describes the feelings and emotional energy that arises in a person when they receive a stimulus in the form of an image, a memory, a conversation or a story. It is a self -contained experience for a person. Empathy is the ability to sense and tune into the feelings, emotions and the needs or yearnings of another person. It describes how we can read the emotional world of another person. This can take place in complete silence. It is a quality that exists in the energetic field between two people. We might recognise this as the atmosphere or vibe between people. A person can easily tell the difference between a listener engaged with sympathy and one engaged in empathy. Listening with empathy is one of the most powerful ways to support a person.

We are told that a small percentage of our communication relates to the words that are used. I recently came across some research that split our communication as 10% words, 30% tone and 60% presence or body language. Researchers differ widely in their description of the 60% and it can almost be described as ‘other’. There is information in every aspect of communication but only 10% relates to the words or language content. So how do we read and make use of the remaining 90%? This 90% affects us at an emotional level and the practice of empathy allows us to glean much more information from communication. Often the cognitive 10% doesn’t match what is being communicated at the energetic or emotional level. The practice of empathy allows us to read this 90%. Imagine how useful it would be in professional life to be able to extract all the information from a person’s communication and not just a meagre 10%. How useful would it be to hear everything that a customer is saying and not just a meagre 10%. Plenty of conflict arises because we don’t hear the full message. Empathy is a skill than can be developed and refined and I look forward to blogging about this in the near future.