Social Awareness: The ability to understand and be empathetic

Monque Adams
Gabrielle Botelho

Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the capacity that we all have to lead our relationships and ourselves. EI consists of four essential capabilities: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and social skills.

The first step to start leading others is social awareness, which is the person's ability to consider the perspectives of other individuals, groups or communities and apply that understanding in their interactions.

Let’s Talk about empathy

What is Empathy? How can you show empathy to those who suffer and are struggling? Why is empathy so important in the workplace?

Empathy is the ability to understand another person's view and feelings. It is “to walk in someone else’s shoes” and see the world from their perspective rather than our own.

Psychologists Daniel Goleman and Paul Ekman break down the concept of empathy into the following categories:

Cognitive empathy is the ability to recognise, imagine and understand another person’s thoughts and feelings. When we practise cognitive empathy, we are practising taking the perspective of another person. We are imagining ourselves in their situation and we understand why they would be feeling sad, it helps us to convey a message in a way that best reaches the other person.

Emotional empathy is the skill to respond with an appropriate emotion to someone else’s thoughts and feelings. This type of empathy helps us to build connection with others.

Compassionate empathy is the ability to understand, feel and connect to other’s pain, in such a way, that it moves you to a concrete action, helping to relieve it. It is seen as “the key” for human connection.

But How to Build or Practice Empathy?

In this line of thought, empathy is a skill that can be learned and developed. In each interaction you have with others, it is a chance to learn new ways of thinking, to share feelings and to make a difference, contributing and helping to others' growth.

Being sensitive to what others are going through creates ties that make it easier to be connected and accept guidance. Therefore, before you engage with another person, consider that you do not know everything about them, and be ready to learn and listen. Avoid being judgmental and keep in mind that your interpretation of a person's mood or thinking will be influenced by your prior experience and unconscious bias.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

When people experience empathy, they are more likely to engage in behaviours and social activities that benefit other people. Empathy is highly important and contributes to creating healthy and positive work relations. In this sense, it is the key to a more diverse and inclusive workplace.