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The empathetic thinker

Posted by Madi Boyd on May 3, 2016 9:00:00 AM PDT
Madi Boyd

At some point in our careers, it seems we all must experience the pleasures of attempting to collaborate with a person who has earned the description of being “stuck in their ways.” In the business world today, we would refer to someone of this measure as an “egocentric thinker.” Egocentric thinkers believe that their view is the correct or “real” way of thinking about something. In order to obtain success in any business, especially in today’s ever-changing technology industry, it is important to learn what it means to be an “empathetic thinker,” as well as understand ways in which you can help transition an egocentric thinker into becoming an empathetic thinker.

An empathetic thinker is someone who:

  • Doesn’t see just one possibility.
  • Values the ideas and views of others, whether or not they believe they are correct.
  • Recognizes the importance of making an effort to truly understand others’ perspectives.
  • Is able to consider and apply constructive criticism to their own ideas.

In business, empathetic thinkers display signs of respect and professionalism. When viewing ideas and goals from another person’s perspective, not only might it open your eyes to other possibilities, it also makes it more likely that other people will be open to your ideas as well.

It comes as no surprise that it can be difficult to get the egocentric thinker on board with a way of thinking that openly invites new opinions and critique. The more competitive and connected the business world gets, the more difficult it is for people to feel like their own opinions are being heard. This is why showing the ability to understand what other people have to say can be just as valuable as saying something yourself.

So how do we promote empathetic thinking to the egocentric thinker? Here are a few tactics you can use to start initiating the switch:

  • Practice empathetic thinking yourself, and listen to an egocentric thinker’s ideas. This may seem obvious, but leading by example is not always as simple as it sounds.
  • Ask questions and make sure you fully understand why they think what they think.
  • Build on to their ideas by inputting some of your own.
  • When pitching your own ideas, open them up for feedback. Suggest that whenever new ideas are being discussed, there should always be a designated time for people to ask questions and present feedback.
  • Because people who think in an egocentric fashion typically relate ideas to how it makes them feel, or how they may or may not benefit from them, avoid starting your idea with phrases such as “I feel like…” or “What I want to see is…”. Rather, try “What might benefit us is …” or “What we might consider is …”.
  • In your team, promote learning opportunities to become a discussion rather than instruction. This will invite more questions and lead to deeper understanding.

The true benefit from having a team full of empathetic thinkers lies in the ripple effect it can have when people feel comfortable and excited to share new ideas. This happens because team members feel more confident about their own ideas being valued when they themselves have practiced genuine empathy toward their peer’s ideas as well. By implementing this thinking strategy, you and your business can take the first steps toward building the most effective team possible.

Topics: Consulting, Leadership