Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, said, “When you show deep empathy toward others, their defensive energy goes down, and positive energy replaces it.”

Inspiring  coaches  are  savvy  enough  to  know  when  it’s time to address an issue. They read other people and understand the nuances of a situation. In other words, they have emotional intelligence.

One of the cornerstones of emotional intelligence is empathy. According to Sara D. Hodges and Michael W. Myers in the Encyclopedia of Social Psychology, “Empathy is often defined as understanding another person’s experience by imagining oneself in that other person’s situation. One understands the other person’s experience  as if it were being experienced by the self, but without the self actually experiencing it.”

So, why is empathy important? It helps you more genuinely connect with your team. It also helps you deter- mine the right time and creates the appropriate context to provide constructive coaching. In being able to empathize,  you’re not taking on another  person’s  problems. You’re considering how they feel so you can convey information in a way that is sure to resonate with them.

When you take time to understand  where  someone is coming from, even when you’re going through a tough time yourself, it will be easier to come up with a plan that improves the dynamic. Rather than react in a way that makes the situation worse, you’ll convey the appropriate feelings, which your team members may mirror or exhibit themselves.

Of course, being empathetic takes   practice.   It  doesn’t  come overnight. To be empathetic, you need to be open and willing to recognize the feelings of others. You can bolster your empathy in other ways, too, from casting aside stereotypes and snap judgments to simply asking someone how their day is going.

As social philosopher and writer Roman Krznaric explains in his book, Empathy: Why It Matters, and How to Get It, perhaps the greatest thing you can do to be more empathetic is to simply listen. Give people the chance to explain where they’re coming from and consider repeating back what they’ve said to show that you’ve understood.

Learn more in The Power of Positive Coaching to inspire winning results and relationships.


  • Lee J. Colan, Ph.D.

    Executive Advisor and Leadership Consultant

    Lee J. Colan, Ph.D. is a rare combination of a highly-trained business consultant and coach to leading organizations, prolific author and engaging presenter of ideas. Lee has authored 15 popular books that have been translated into 10 languages, including the bestselling Engaging the Hearts and Minds of All Your Employees. He has also created over 100 practical models and products that equip and inspire leaders at every level. Learn more and access free tools at