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Jonathan Silvestri
Jonathan Silvestri

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Compassionate Empathy: Help your fellow friend

This is the final piece in my Empathy in Tech series, and we'll be talking about the form of empathy we should all be aiming for: Compassionate Empathy.

We've talked about Cognitive and Emotional empathy in previous posts, and I did what I could to illustrate how effective these things are in a workplace setting. My goal was to lay the groundwork for this post, because in reality, the form of empathy you want to embrace the most as a colleague and peer is Compassionate empathy.

If Cognitive empathy is the more logical one, and Emotional empathy is the more emotional one, consider Compassionate empathy as the bridge that combines these two and allows you to consider both what a person is thinking and how they are feeling in any given situation. It's through this connection that we are inspired to offer help to others, if appropriate.

What it looks like

Image of two children sitting on a stoop. One of them is doing homework. The other is trying to help them with it.

Say a colleague comes to you with after a rough week. They feel like they didn't do a very good job with their work, and the work they did complete introduced some problems. They are concerned that their manager will be mean to them when they chat about it during their next one on one.

You take a moment to understand why they are thinking this way, and share their feelings of concern. Finally, you share that you feel what they are feeling and offer to help them plan out how they will approach the conversation with their manager.

By taking all of these steps, you reduce the mental and emotional overload your friend is experiencing by taking on some of it yourself. This helps clear headspace for developing an actionable plan, which in turn also leads to a reduction in stress/anxiety. Compassionate empathy in action!

Why it's important

Image of two children walking down a road. One child has their arm around the other

Compassionate empathy helps to develop the balance, skill set, and knowledge that will foster a friendly and collaborative workplace setting. It helps to prevent us from leaning too hard in either the logical or the emotional direction, and helps us to make the connections in our brain that drives how we analyze and react to situations.

Situations like the example I presented above are not that uncommon -- you probably run into ones like that on at least a semi-regular basis. Don't avoid these situations if you see them coming! Instead, use them as opportunities to develop your empathetic mindset, so that you can handle situations of increasing seriousness and complexity as they arise.

In Closing

Thank you so much for sticking with me as I talked about empathy. I think it is the among the most important qualities that any person can have, particularly folks in tech. Lean in to that discomfort and achieve your whole self!

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