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How to be more empathetic

It starts with recognizing the thoughts that often lead to a lack of empathy.
3 min read

Learn to call upon an empathetic mindset

Do you find that it takes effort for you to have an empathetic approach? Everyone has mindsets that come more easily to them, and mindsets that take more energy to employ. All eight Agile EQ mindsets are valuable, and learning how to stretch into your uncomfortable ones is the key to deepening your emotional intelligence.

Read about the benefits and limitations of the empathizing mindset in Your empathizing mindset in Agile EQ. If empathy is something you’d like to develop, read below to learn why and when you may want to channel an empathizing frame of mind, as well as tips for practicing this skill.

Why do it?

Although the empathizing mindset focuses so much on helping others, it can also help the person practicing it. The advantages will differ for people of different DiSC® styles. For example, empathy can make D styles more approachable, C styles less likely to get frustrated with others, and S styles less reserved.

In discussing the strategic importance of empathy, Stanford University’s Ed Batista talks about how most conflict stems from misunderstandings. He invokes a line from Jean Renoir’s film The Rules of the Game: “The awful thing about life is this: everyone has their reasons.”

Working to understand others helps explain why a person is acting a certain way, and this understanding builds stronger teams.


Situations that may call for the empathizing mindset

So, we know there are drawbacks of over-relying on the empathizing mindset, and benefits it can bring. But how do you know when it’s a good choice? Part of the development that happens when using Everything DiSC® Agile EQ is learning agility—the ability to read a situation and recognize which mindset is needed. Agile EQ also helps you develop skills in all eight mindsets so that you are ready to employ them. The empathizing mindset will be useful to different people under different circumstances, but in general, you may need to call upon empathy when:

  • trying to understand someone else’s motivations or behavior
  • supporting a coworker who is struggling
  • anticipating how your actions might impact others
  • being approachable
  • gaining deeper knowledge of another person
  • creating a respectful environment
  • looking for the full picture on an issue
  • encouraging others to open up

How to be more empathetic

You can learn to employ an empathizing approach. It is a skill you can work at and develop over time, not just an innate, unchangeable quality that you either have or you don’t. Yes, some people are innately empathetic, but every person has the ability to train their minds to feel more comfortable reaching for and using the empathizing mindset. It will just take more effort for you if it’s not one of your natural mindsets.

Your Agile EQ report (see sample) will give you an effort meter for each mindset outside your comfort zone. Effort meters are personalized based on your responses, and people of the exact same DiSC style and dot placement can have very different effort meters for each mindset.

Recognize your thoughts

Based on your DiSC style and effort meter, Agile EQ will walk you through ways to gain skills in the mindsets not innate to you. This starts with recognizing and challenging automatic thoughts that make it hard for you to stretch into a mindset. For the empathizing mindset, these may be thoughts such as:

  • I need to get out of this conversation as quickly as possible.
  • They’d probably rather just be left alone.
  • It’s not my job to coddle people, especially at work.
  • I’ve got more important things going on.
  • How hard is it to get this right?
  • If I don’t say the right thing, I might make this worse.

Set goals

Then, you’ll set beginner, intermediate, and advanced goals based on where you’re at with the mindset. These may be outcomes like:

  • I regularly check in with people to see if they need help.
  • I almost always feel comfortable talking with someone who is upset or emotional.
  • I often think about what kinds of support different people need from me.
  • If someone frustrates or bothers me, I typically stop and consider things from their perspective.

Start practicing

The Agile EQ profile provides concrete tips to take action toward these goals, and ways to break them down into small, everyday habits. Everyone’s path toward empathy will look different, but here are some general tips to be more empathizing:

  • Reach out to offer support to colleagues who need it.
  • Take time to attend to others’ emotional needs.
  • Check in with colleagues regularly to see how they are.
  • Adapt your approach to different people and situations.
  • Learn to anticipate what people need from you.
  • Engage with others about their problems, even if things get tense or emotional.

If the empathizing mindset is not intuitive for you, practicing it will likely cause some discomfort. Keep an open mind and remember that progress comes in small steps. Recent research shows that 80 percent of people have worked on a team where low EQ hurt productivity or created a toxic culture. By developing your agile emotional intelligence, you’ll become a greater asset to your organization, be a better teammate, and experience less stress yourself.

See also: Your empathizing mindset in Agile EQ


Avery Harris-Gray

SC style, NY based. Writing about Everything DiSC and The Five Behaviors since 2020. Leadership style: humble. EQ mindset: composed. I always have snacks to share.

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