10 Key Ideas for Collaboration*
- People are always acting in service of their own needs. Even when the expression of their unmet needs triggers pain or discomfort for us, their expression still has more to do with their own needs than with criticizing or harming us. “Needs” are universal to all people, e.g., respect, autonomy, communication, progress, etc.
- Conflicts occur at the request or strategy level, not at the needs level. There can be many strategies to meet a need. Email is one specific strategy to meet the need for communication. Other strategies include a face-to-face meeting or a telephone call. When empathically connected, people increase the likelihood of developing strategies to meet all needs, thus avoiding conflict.
- We never fully understand someone’s experience. We can only guess. Saying, “I understand,” or “I know how you feel,” can weaken empathic connection and often solicits a, “No, you don’t understand” reaction from the listener. Saying, “I’m guessing…” or “I imagine…” creates more space for empathic connection. Words are important but our intention with words matters the most.
- Every feeling is new in each moment. Feelings point to needs met/unmet. It’simportant to come to each moment fresh, without assumptions or comparisons, curious about and willing to guess the needs connected to feelings in the moment. This is the act of empathic connection.
- We cannot empathize with others unless our own needs are sufficiently met. The process of self-empathy or self-connection is necessary for leadership and team high performance.
- Empathize first before explaining, educating, defending or justifying. When someone is triggered – recap, guess their feelings/needs, and make observations about what they say.
- Speaker is responsible for confirming what is heard. 30 – 50 percent of what is said is not what is heard. After expressing the need for understanding or clarity, the speaker can ask for confirmation about his/her clarity, instead of asking the listener if he/she understands.
- Empathy is not sympathy. Empathy focuses our attention on the other person. Sympathy, sharing how we have had similar experiences, draws the attention to us instead.
- The power of empathy comes from strategies to meet more needs. Empathy is about emergent strategies in action and meeting more needs through all voices being heard.
- In the workplace, shared reality about the needs of the We shapes relationships.
*From The Empathy Factor – Your Competitive Advantage for Personal, Team, and Business Success. Based on the Nonviolent Communication process developed by Marshall Rosenberg, Ph.D.