"I understand how you feel."
People with Empathy in their top 5 StrengthsFinder results can sense the emotions of those around them. It operates like a kind of superpower: they can walk into a room and intuitively sense the morale of the team based on how people feel. They are able to feel what others are feeling as though those feelings are their own.
The genius of the Empathy talent lies in the emotional depth of the relationships they are able to form with others. People with Empathy ask questions and seek to understand why people feel a certain way. They do not necessarily condone the choices each person makes, but they understand how they feel. They do not dismiss the emotions; they empower others by validating their feelings. People with Empathy believe that emotions are an important part of the story. By allowing others to voice out their emotions, they help to create a release in people's hearts.
This talent is often stereotyped and linked to job tasks such as counselling, teaching and caregiving, but there is more to Empathy than meets the eye. It is powerful in many other jobs. For example, salespeople with the Empathy talent seek to understand the needs of clients. They earn their trust through listening and they discover the real needs by asking good questions. They are often gifted in customizing solutions for clients and finding the right products for their needs.
People with Empathy instinctively try to listen. They are often recognised to be good listeners as they not only listen to the words but to the hearts of people. They hear the joy and the pain. They hear the peace and the anger. They hear the relief and the anxiety. They help people find ways to express their feelings — to themselves as well as to others. It's true that at times, because of their capacity to sense and hold powerful emotions, those with Empathy can sometimes be labelled as overly emotional, too easily affected by others' feelings, or even a cry-baby. However, at its maturity, they have the capacity to connect with others on a deep level, providing a safe place for people to express the most vulnerable parts of themselves.
So how can a person with Empathy turn this talent into a Strength? Here are a few suggestions:
1. SET CLEAR BOUNDARIES
While those with Empathy desire deep emotional connections with others, it is important to recognize that it is often these deep emotional connections that can cause hurt and pain. Setting boundaries is a way for those with Empathy to take responsibility over the different ways they allow others to treat them.
Emotional boundaries can sometimes be fuzzy and difficult to set. But to those with Empathy, it is crucial to understand how emotional connections can easily cross the line into being harmful for both parties, and how helpful it is to maintain clarity in boundaries. Clear boundaries also help people with Empathy take the necessary actions to remain emotionally healthy.
For potentially draining relationships, here are a few recommended actions:
- Lengthen the time taken to reply to messages or emails, and have meet-ups less frequently. Reducing the intensity of communication creates the emotional capacity to give a more gracious and loving response.
- Try not to converse beyond a certain time in the evening. Conversations tend to be a lot more vulnerable and filled with more raw emotions in the late hours of the night.
- Choose time with companions wisely. Avoid people with toxic behaviours. This is especially so when those with Empathy recognize that they might not be in good shape in terms of managing their own emotions. Those with Empathy can easily adopt the feelings of others and become drained by negative emotions expressed in interactions.
- Build a trusted group of friends to unload to. This is a crucial part of self-care. People with Empathy need to be able to share their own frustrations and express their emotions without fear of judgement.
2. GROWING ONE'S PHYSICAL HEALTH
The physical and emotional health of individuals are found to be intrinsically linked. Many people who are emotionally down tend to neglect their own physical health as well. While this idea of being physically healthy is important for all human beings, those with Empathy should take note that this talent requires them to have a healthy physical condition to be fully engaged and be at their best.
3. SEEK COMPLEMENTARY PARTNERSHIPS
Partner those with Analytical
People with Analytical think because of their feelings, while people with Empathy think based on their feelings. The former works on logic while the latter works on emotions. Finding partners with Analytical enables leaders with Empathy to go through a more robust process of decision-making. Such a combination allows the decision-makers to consider and understand a more comprehensive range of factors that impact team members' well-being.
Partner those with Command
People with Command are talented in providing clarity of thought, especially in chaotic or stressful situations. Partnering those with Command allows those with Empathy to find clarity in the midst of clouded emotions. This partnership is powerful for leaders with Empathy, who might need others to help them maintain clarity in the big picture while they manage the intuitive desire to care for different individuals.
Partner those with Significance
People with Significance desire to create an impact and make a difference to others. They like their actions to be recognized and their intentions to be understood by others (often a large group). People with Empathy prefer to listen and seek first to understand others (often one at a time). With solidarity, such a partnership engages both the individual and the team and increases the level of engagement in a holistic way.
Concluding thoughts: Those with Empathy are often judged to be people easily clouded by their own emotions and who often fail to make objective decisions. But many who have discovered Empathy among their top StrengthsFinder talents are taking pride in it and finding comfort that they have it. This is not surprising, given that Empathy is a lacking trait in a world overwhelmed by the rat race. It is beneficial to consider how such a talent can be powerfully harnessed to create an organization or team that truly cares for an individual's well-being.
Written by Victor Seet
Activator • Communication • Strategic • Self-Assurance • Command
As a Gallup certified StrengthsFinder coach, Victor is passionate about strengths engagement and now runs his own training company, Strengths School™ (strengthsschool.com). He has been actively giving Strengthsfinder leadership and team building workshops to businesses and schools in Singapore as well as Hong Kong, China (Shanghai) and India.
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