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Empathy & Difficult Conversations

Friday 22 January 2021

Are you as empathetic as you think?
The art of having the difficult conversation for Sarah Ewen from Public Speaking Life is deeply grounded in the concept of empathy. However, empathy is often misunderstood.  
“A lot of us like to think that we are empathetic. Empathy is something that is talked a lot about in leadership these days. And when you ask a group of people as I have many times ‘where are you on the empathy scale? Are you someone that is very empathetic?’
Ewen said that the people that challenge leaders are ultimately a test of how much empathy they have.  
Ewen has been coaching members of the GRC Institute through having difficult conversations and these were some of the trends that she noticed.  
“I think personally that there are a number different types of difficult conversations held around the workplace.”
She highlighted that could be around the performance of a team or individual and then there are the relational types of conversation that grounded issues like personality clashes or miscommunications.  
“I do think that relational types of conversations are always the most challenging because even if they are not designed to be personal, quite often the person hearing it can take it very personally and that’s part of the challenge with them as well.”
One of the biggest challenges is that the meetings in a virtual environment make it easier for employees to keep their barriers up making it difficult for effective communication.  
“There are certain conversations that you would have face to face in an office where you can see the impact more clearly on someone that you can’t necessarily have in a virtual environment”
Risk & Compliance
Even before the COVID-19 environment, the risk and compliance function is often the only voice in the room that is taking a different stance.  
The challenge is recognising different personality types.
Quick tips for Communication
“In difficult conversations, it's not always right and wrong, who is right and who is wrong, it’s about understanding the other person's perspective. So, I think the biggest thing that we can do with a difficult conversation is to enter it with the mindset that I want to listen to understand, as well as share my point.”