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E.I. Part 7 | Empathy is Key

Guiding Questions: When you mess up, do you need someone beating you up for it, or do you need someone lifting you up? When someone else messes up, do you know what they need from you? How?

Key Takeaways: Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. It is essential for building strong and lasting relationships and building championship cultures where athletes are more willing to fight with each other than against each other.

Empathy is key to being a good teammate and having a strong culture and team.

Great teams have great teammates who understand each other and care about each other. We don’t have to love everyone, but emotional intelligence is our ability to understand and read and respond to each other's feelings and emotions.

That is how Daniel Goleman defines empathy in his book, Emotional Intelligence.

Empathy is being able to see yourself in someone else's shoes and understand their perspective. When you can do that, you can better understand how and why they make the decisions they make, and when you don’t agree with those decisions, it can help reduce conflict.

Adversity is a healthy part of every hero’s journey. The heroes are the ones who keep going. In most hero stories, there is a sidekick, a mentor, or a friend who picks them up and helps them keep going. That doesn’t happen without care and empathy.

Who is a sidekick, a mentor, or a friend in your life who understands you and helps you keep going when adversity hits?

Who is a hero for whom you are a sidekick, mentor, or friend?

We all react to adversity differently. Some of us manage it great, while others struggle with it. When we have empathy, we can see those struggles start to happen in others early, and we can help de-escalate them early. When we don’t have empathy, we might not be able to recognize when someone becomes triggered, or we might not care, and we might react and respond in a triggered way because of their emotions.

Empathy can both bring people together, and it can reduce or stop conflict.

Just being able to say, “I understand what they are feeling or where they are coming from can go a long way to sustaining or repairing a team’s culture.” It shows your teammates you care, and it can help them start to self-regulate. Plus it keeps you from adding fuel to the fire.

The good thing is we can all learn how to have more empathy. Empathy doesn’t make us weak, it makes us stronger because when we have empathy, we have more control over our thoughts and actions.

How Do I Become More Empathetic? We are born with the capacity for empathy, but it must be nurtured to grow. Research shows those who are born and raised in nurturing, loving environments tend to have more empathy than those who don’t. If we don’t use empathy or receive it, we lose it. People who don’t grow up in loving, supportive, and caring environments don’t have as much empathy as people who do, but no matter where we are on the empathy scale, we can grow.

1 - Self-Awareness: Become more aware of your own emotions. When you can identify and respond to your own emotions, you can better identify and respond to the emotions of others.

2 - Listen Actively: When you actively listen, you are showing yourself and others that you care, strengthening your empathy muscles.

3 - Ask Questions: When you ask questions, you learn more about the people around you. The more you know, the stronger your ability to care.

4 - Be Respectful: I like to say, “Pain is pain.” Tearing an ACL is much more painful than spraining an ankle, but spraining an ankle still hurts. Show respect for what the people around you are going through.


1 - On a scale of 1-5, 1 being you have no heart, and 5 being you feel everybody’s pain, how empathetic are you?

2 - How important is empathy?

3 - When is it good to feel empathy, and when can being empathetic hurt you?

4 - How can you leverage empathy to help you become a better teammate or leader?

Much of this information was taken from the introduction of Daniel Goleman’s book, Emotional Intelligence. You can find more about the book here: Emotional Intelligence

Previous E.I. Posts

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