Promoting Mental Health Through Empathy
For the last 71 years, Canadians in communities, schools, workplaces and the House of Commons have rallied around CMHA Mental Health Week, commonly held during the first week of May. The theme this is year is focused on “Empathy”, which is a key component to cultivating a psychologically safe workplace.
The Oxford Dictionary defines empathy as the “ability to imagine and understand the thoughts, perspective, and emotions of another person.” Not all situations are created equally and as employers, you should seek to understand employees and the unique experiences and perspectives they bring to a workplace. In the words of Stephen Covey (author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”), “When you show deep empathy toward others, their defensive energy goes down, and positive energy replaces it.”
Empathy requires you to take a step in each other’s shoes, listen intently to what is being said and refrain from judgment. By doing so will promote understanding, collaboration and mental wellness in the workplace.
So how can you practice empathy?
- Actively Listen. When talking to employees, dedicate your undivided attention to fully participate in the conversation. This is their time to speak and providing space for them to be heard helps with building trust and respect. You can show employees they are being heard and understood through eye contact, body language, and acknowledgement statements. Asking follow-up, targeted questions also shows employees that you care about their situation and acknowledges their feelings and point of views.
- Avoid judgement and assumptions. Being cognizant of your preconceived thoughts and stereotypes when entering a conversation will enable you to fully empathize for another individual. It’s important to not make assumptions and give your employees the benefit of the doubt before forming an opinion.
- Recognize feelings. Work can be stressful and some people are better at handling it than others. It is important for managers to take into consideration what may be happening in their employee’s lives in and outside of work. How you speak and react to other people are ways you express respect and kindness in the workplace.
Every organization’s best asset is their people and happy employees are more productive at work. Empathy is a powerful tool that can help your organization to not only support mental health in the workplace but also achieve growth and success. Year round, MaxPeople provides employers with effective strategies to assist them with building a psychologically safe workplace. For additional information or support with your mental health initiatives, please reach out to MaxPeople at [email protected] or complete our contact form here.