By Ana Hengist

Try to remember the last time you felt very angry or upset. I am pretty sure the signals were visible, from the look in your eyes to your tone of voice and body language, right?

Imagine at that moment, someone who is clearly happy approaching you to say, “Calm down. It’s not a big deal. You’re overreacting,” and walking away. How would you feel?

Now, let’s picture a different approach to the same situation. This time, the person stops smiling the moment he or she notices you are angry, looks into your eyes, and says, “I see you are upset and you have a right to be. What can I do to make you feel better?” The second approach would probably establish a stronger connection with you because it shows more empathy.

To earn trust, loyalty, and respect from our team members and customers, we must learn how to connect to people’s feelings and emotions. The best way to establish positive connections with other individuals and strengthen our network is by being aware of our attitudes and reactions in different situations. The more self-awareness we have, the better our ability to adjust our actions and behavior accordingly will be.

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the way other people feel. It means caring about their troubles and trying to see things from their point of view without any judgment.

Being empathetic has nothing to do with giving others advice. It is the ability to actively listen and make a conscious effort to understand a different perspective.

While most people can recognize people’s feelings at some level, not everyone knows how to express it through actions. We can choose to improve our empathy over time. Professionals with high levels of empathy are more inspiring because they truly care about others and, therefore, they are more likely to engage and influence people.

Ana Hengist is a corporate educator and social communicator based in Brazil. She is a training specialist for IPMI and former consultant for Abrapark (the Brazilian Parking Association). She is also the co-author of Find Your Brand: Strategies to Enhance Careers and Businesses, published in Brazil (title translated from Portuguese).