Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, said, "When you show deep empathy toward others, their defensive energy goes down, and positive energy replaces it."
Inspiring coaches are savvy enough to know when it's time to address an issue. They read other people and understand the nuances of a situation. In other words, they have emotional intelligence.
One of the cornerstones of emotional intelligence is empathy. According to Sara D. Hodges and Michael W. Myers in the Encyclopedia of Social Psychology, "Empathy is often defined as understanding another person's experience by imagining oneself in that other person's situation. One understands the other person's experience as if it were being experienced by the self, but without the self actually experiencing it."
So, why is empathy important? It helps you more genuinely connect with your team. It also helps you determine the right time and creates the appropriate context to provide constructive coaching. In being able to empathize, you're not taking on another person's problems. You're considering how they feel so you can convey information in a way that is sure to resonate with them.
When you take time to understand where someone is coming from, even when you're going through a tough time yourself, it will be easier to come up with a plan that improves the dynamic. Rather than react in a way that makes the situation worse, you'll convey the appropriate feelings, which your team members may mirror or exhibit themselves.
Of course, being empathetic takes practice. It doesn't come overnight. To be empathetic, you need to be open and willing to recognize the feelings of others. You can bolster your empathy in other ways, too, from casting aside stereotypes and snap judgments to simply asking someone how their day is going.
As social philosopher and writer Roman Krznaric explains in his book, Empathy: Why It Matters, and How to Get It, perhaps the greatest thing you can do to be more empathetic is to simply listen. Give people the chance to explain where they're coming from and consider repeating back what they've said to show that you've understood.