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Empathy – I understand, and I appreciate how you are feeling

RocheMartin defines Emotional Intelligence by a set of 10 competencies and this is one in a series of blogs covering each one: Why develop Empathy, what is it exactly and how can you develop it?

Why develop Empathy?


Being good at Empathy is great for relationships!
It's like the glue that creates the bond between us. developing this competency is really important for your home life, for leadership, for all your work relationships and for effective teamwork.

A few more specific reasons...

  • By being empathetic, the people you deal with will feel that they’ve been heard and understood, which has widely been accepted as a key human need.

  • People are far more likely to listen to your point of view if they feel we've listened to theirs.

  • Empathy establishes the basis of trust and loyalty between people (RocheMartin).

  • Empathy helps build a core understanding between people, creating a platform for developing ideas together.

  • Empathy is the starting point for all good business change management: who is affected by the change, what’s the practical and emotional impact on them, and so how can you support them through the change?

  • We need to make sure we really understand what's going on for someone and how it is making them feel, otherwise our next choice of action risks being misguided and potentially doing more harm than good.

  • You need empathy to help people develop options when they are stuck, which is why it's such an important skill for coaches, leaders and consultants.

What is Empathy exactly?

Empathy focuses on understanding and demonstrating awareness of another person’s experience. What their perspective is and the likely impact of that on how they're feeling.

As with all the RocheMartin emotional intelligence competencies, Empathy can be broken down into 3 components, which help to pinpoint areas of strength and areas for development.

The 3 components of Empathy are


Proactively exploring what someone thinks and how that makes them feel


Being entirely focused on what they have to say. Listening with your eyes as well as your ears. What does their body language and the way they are talking tell you about how they feel about the situation?

Emotional Connection

Demonstrating that you've heard and understood correctly

..."I understand, and I appreciate how you are feeling".

Empathy is often confused with sympathy, but they're not the same...and empathy is far more helpful than sympathy!

Here's a simple metaphor to explain the difference:

Imagine you see that someone has fallen into a raging river and it's obvious they can't see a way out...


You jump in the river to help them. Now you're in the same situation, experiencing the same problem and the same emotions... and that’s not very helpful to them.


You stay on the side of the river, can see their predicament and throw them a lifeline or help guide them to a way out. By not jumping in there with them, you avoid the anguish, can stay objective and think logically. Your mind hasn’t been swept away by feeling the emotions they are feeling.

How can you develop Empathy?

Coaching is by far the most efficient, effective, engaging, empowering and enjoyable way to build any of the Emotional Intelligence competencies.

Helping you to develop, refine and embed your own personalised strategies for each competency.

And this blog contains some ideas for you to experiment with on your own that have worked for me and my clients.

If you’re interested in understanding your level of emotional intelligence using one of the RocheMartin assessments or would like to explore coaching for developing components of it like Empathy or Relationship and Communication Skills as a whole, you can book a free call here.

And if you'd like to try out my monthly emails that provide a roundup of my blogs as well as other insights, you can sign up here.


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