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Desert Highway
Thoughtful writing authored and shared by members of of the Thinking Collaborative community to support others on the journey.

Sustaining the Journey

Empathy for Existing State

Authored By:

Thinking Collaborative


June 03, 2013

In the next weeks, we will continue focusing on the third Cognitive CoachingSM conversation: the Problem-Resolving map.

Cognitive coaches respond most effectively when they have genuine empathy for those they are coaching. This means having the capacity to recognize and name the emotional state of another. Such capacity is one facet of Goleman’s theory of emotional intelligence. In Cognitive CoachingSM, the pace includes an empathy paraphrase to honor the existing emotional state of the distressed person.

How might one become more skillful with true empathy? Art Costa has suggested empathy requires attention to four facets of human behavior—actions, voice tone, facial expressions, and language. Consider your own attention skills. Which of the four do you notice first? On which do you most rely for responding with empathy? Which one is more challenging to attend to for you?

For the next four weeks, challenge yourself to develop greater acuity in observing actions, voice tone, facial expressions, and language. Begin this journey to refine your empathy skills by focusing on actions for this week. As you engage in meetings and other interactions, notice how you observe actions of others to make inferences about the emotional states of others. How are you connecting behaviors to emotions? What emotions do you seem more attuned to than others? What might your own actions suggest about your emotions? How do gender differences affect how you perceive actions? What other filters might be operating as you make inferences about actions?

Goleman, D. et al. (2002). Primal Leadership. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

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