Yvette De Luna, Esq.
Helping Business Owners, Managers and Supervisors Build Strong Relationships with Employees

5 Step Empathy-Workout for Managers

Empathy is the plug to connect to employees... and, empathy can be learned. Practice the exercises below everyday at work for 5 consecutive days before going to the next exercise. At the end of the journey, experience for yourself the transforming difference you are choosing to make. Click on the tabs below to access your daily workout.


1. Your first exercise in your empathy fitness journey is to identify your non-negotiables. So, for the first five consecutive days, you will practice noticing what situations and perceptions trigger you. Keep a list. It is important that you are fully aware of what things, believes, situations, prejudices values are non-negotiable for you. Because, when there are situations and interactions that involve these non-negotiables, our go to reaction is to raise barriers and assume a defensive posture. Noticing your non-negotiables will help you identify which situations require that you mindfully detach from them, because your tendency will be to judge. Identify and write.


2. Beginning on day six of your empathy fitness journey and until your 10th day, exercise and practice noticing your emotions. To identify emotions in others, we must first identify our own. One way of doing it is through meditation. Try meditating 20 minutes per day while exploring and experiencing your emotions. Another way of getting in touch with your emotions is to make conscious mood checks. Set alarms on your clock or phone, ideally 8 times a day at first, to pause and intentionally connect with your emotions. Write what you experience and memorialize what was the situation surrounding those emotions.


3. Your exercises for days 11 to 15 is: stop categorizing emotions as good or bad. Emotions just are. However, some of us were taught that certain emotions are bad, or at least undesirable. Our caretakers conditioned some of us with, "Don't cry, ", "Don't get angry", "Smile". Empathizing requires that we discard judging emotions as good or bad. While we can control how we respond to your emotions, we do not control which and whether emotions arise in us. The key is to separate the judgment we make of the emotion from the experience of processing the emotion. Write every time you catch yourself judging and emotion as good, bad, or feeling uncomfortable with the expression of an emotion.


identify emotions in others

4. During days 16 to 20, you are exercising the muscles that allow you to work with the emotions of others. Identify emotions in others without judging them. One way of identifying emotions in others is to read their facial expressions. Notice if their facial expressions align with their words. Another way to identify emotions in others is by reading their body language. Again, notice if their body language aligns with their words. And the most effective and the one I recommend most in a work environment is to ask. Normalizing the question "what are you feeling or how do you feel" is fundamental in the path to empathy. For the next five days, ask you are the question to different employees. Once you know how the person feels, the only thing left to do is to validate it, not judge it.

Now you are ready to get into the Shoes of the Other

5. Finally, in the last five days of your empathy fitness journey, you have an interesting daily exercise. You get to imagine how a person is feeling. For example, during your morning stroll, let us say you walk by a mother who is trying to control two small kids that will not stop moving. Pause and place yourself in her shoes. Is she feeling overwhelmed because she is tired as the kids are still interrupting her sleep? Or, on the contrary, is she having fun and turning the situation into a game? The exercise is to imagine what she would feel in each of those two scenarios. And while you are imagining it, pay close attention to what your mind will do. Your mind will generate an opinion, a conclusion, and a judgment. Do not engage, do not interact with any of it. Just be your own observer. As an observer, you will detach from your opinion, conclusion, and judgment. If you do it with enough intention, you will reach a point where you no longer hold that opinion, conclusion, or judgment. From the role of observer, focus on the judgments you made. Come up with reasons the other person could feel the way they do. You will experience either the weakening of the judgment that arose in you or its disappearance. By now you have practiced the empathy skill enough to use it at work…. But, if you do not feel quite ready yet, use The Secret Weapon.5. 

if all else fails....  do this!

The Secret Weapon, if the empathy workout does not initially work, start with intellectual empathy. Some individuals will have a tough time empathizing with the emotions of others. In those cases, you can start practicing intellectual empathy. The daily exercise is first choosing a subject you hold a firm opinion on. Now, take the opposite position. Say, if you do not believe in abortion, take the opposite position and advocate for more lax abortion laws. Or if you believe in abortion, take a position that advocates for stricter abortion laws. Identify what the opposing side's best arguments are and strengthen them. Ask a friend to listen to these arguments to help you sound credible and convincing. Once you have solid arguments, write. Write about how your thought process. Identify what things you had to set aside to make way for the counterargument. Write about what you felt. Write what, if anything, changed in you. Continue practicing this exercise until you understand Other suggestions to enthrone empathy: (a) socialize with people that area markedly different from you; (b) travel is a spectacular way of achieving this type of socialization. However, there are other, more accessible ways of achieving it. Inviting people from outside your personal circle to your table is the quickest and most effective way. Also, community work and collaborating with volunteer organizations are also ways to begin your way towards empathy… and do it until you understand the intellectual idea of empathy. Then, go back and do the 25-day empathy workout. Now, go conquer the empathy skill and become the outstanding leader you know you are!.


We will help you develop your very own interaction framework specifically designed for managers to improve employee engagement and shift a toxic work culture, click the link below.
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