Why is empathy important to communication professionals?
“Conceptualizing Empathy Competence: A Professional Communication Perspective” has something to offer everyone, no matter where you are in your career. Many organizations these days look for candidates who display empathy competence during the hiring process, but it’s difficult to measure a candidate’s empathy competence. For some of us, empathy comes rather naturally. For others, it doesn’t feel natural at all. And sometimes it’s just not that simple. Whatever your case may be, just like any other skill, there is plenty that you can do to improve it.
For those of us who may find it difficult to empathize with clients, this article does a great job of outlining how to identify emotional cues, both verbal and nonverbal. In a study sample of 35 communication professionals, who were all selected for an interview after rigorous screening, Fuller et al found that although communication professionals greatly value empathy, some “find listening difficult because communications people are often big talkers who tend to dominate the conversation in their desire to provide solutions and look for results (343).”
I was inspired by how extensive the research was, especially by the way the authors made the results so accessible, with several charts and tables summarizing their findings. My favorite is a table titled “Five Empathy-Enacting Behaviors.” You can keep this table on hand to help remind you of the way and means to impart empathy in your work. However, if you have the time, I do encourage you to study the article in its entirety as it is chock-full of valuable material to help even the most seasoned professionals improve in the empathy department.
When we show empathy in professional interactions, we are demonstrating to our clients and colleagues that we care about their needs and perspectives. Empathy competence helps the entire interaction run smoothly, whether we are doing more of the talking or more of the listening. This will make for more meaningful, honest interactions, which will produce a better end result.
Conceptualizing Empathy Competence: A Professional Communication Perspective, Melissa Fuller, Elanor Kamans, Mark van Vuuren, Marca Wolfensberger, and Menno D.T. de Jong
Viewpoint Written by Jonna Sharp, Texas State University
Edited by Christina Rendon, Texas State University