Empathy and Humility: 3 Responses to Overcome Bias #Business
by Kate Nasser | 10 Comments »
Empathy & Humility: The Powerful Response to Bias
When others’ bias threatens to block you, you can tell them off, walk away, or use empathy and humility to overcome their narrow mindedness. Empathy and humility is the place to start. You can always walk away later if you find people’s minds are sealed shut.
Empathy and humility can …
- Reduce the fears that create the bias
- Open the mind to a new view of the issue
- Chip away at the comfort of the status quo and spur learning
- Give you possibilities that outbursts or walking away can’t or won’t
Empathy and Humility: 3 Responses to Overcome Bias
As I reflected on moments when people were biased against me, I realized that I instinctively used empathy and humility. I was rewarded with positive results.
Can a woman do this job? I was doing subcontracts for other consulting firms. One submitted my name to their client — a Fortune 500 corporation — to teach the new workshop on sales and consulting skills. At that point all the instructors were men. The corporate contact replied: A woman? The owner of the consulting firm relayed that reply to me and then asked me how he should reply. In fact he said to me, “I figured you faced this all the time and have some special way of replying.”
I could have ripped all of them apart for their chauvinistic bias. Instead, I heard their fear of change. I put myself in their shoes and in the shoes of the women who would be taking the workshop. I replied: “If there will be women taking the workshop, they will benefit from knowing and seeing a woman do the sales and consulting job the corporation wants them to do.” Empathy and humility hit the mark. They immediately said yes.
Why do we need someone from the USA to do this? The first time I went to Canada to teach customer service, the customs officer at the airport asked me why I was there. When I told him why, he forcefully said: “Will you please tell me why we need someone from the USA to teach customer service instead of an expert right here in Canada?”
This was not the time to sing my own praises. It would have simply intensified his resistance. I replied: “90% of their customers are Americans. Who better to teach them how to deal with Americans, than an American?” He smiled, wished me well, and allowed me to pass. Empathy and humility opened the door to his comfort and my success.
We don’t need you or this change. When leaders bring in consultants to foster change, team members sometimes resist the change by mislabeling us as uninformed outsiders. In these moments, empathy and humility overcome the bias by fostering learning and understanding.
I ask them questions to understand their perspective. I offer examples of how things can be better. This empathy doesn’t stop the change; it helps team members to move it forward. The humility removes the power struggle and powers up the change.
Could a greater miracle take place than to look through each other’s eyes for an instant. ~Thoreau
When the deck seems stacked against you, remember the power of empathy and humility. As you step out of your own feelings of outrage and see into others’ minds, you may well find the connection to overcome their bias. As empathy makes the connection that reduces fear, humility elevates a shared purpose above their personal misgivings.
From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™
When Tough Leaders Show Empathy
Leadership: Never Confuse Humility w/ Humiliation
What’s So Hot About Humility Anyway?
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Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on leading change, employee engagement, teamwork, and delivering the ultimate customer service. She turns interaction obstacles into interpersonal success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.
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Hey Kate, thanks for the article. Very powerful to keep empathy and humility in mind eventhough you would want to get defensive. Excellent. Grtz Ben
Thank you Ben! I am grateful for the feedback and thrilled that you highlighted one of the big points … “Don’t get defensive!”
All the best to you,
Nice article as usual Kate 🙂
You reminded me of one of my beggest challenge at work. In my early days at work, my manager saw how enthusiastic I was and he wanted to stretch me a bit. Our department acquired state of the art hardware and my manager appointed me as the main technical leader for that project. My supervisor was furious as he wanted to lead this important project to the department and he challenged my manager of his selection. I still remember his words when we both went to training in the Netherlands “You will never succeed as you are not ready yet”. I told him by then that he might be right but I’m not alone in there and I could always ask him for help (though my manager strictly said not to involve him in technical decisions). He made it very hard for me as he wanted to prove his point to my manager but I used that as a push to show to my manager that it was worth the risk 🙂
Since then I became my manager favorite in UNIX admin.
I could have lost my temper with my supervisor but little but of empathy paid 🙂
Thanks Kate for your rich wisdom.
Bravo Khalid. You used good judgment, patience, persistence and came up with a winning strategy. Thank you so much for sharing your story here.
Great post, Kate. I love how you use empathy to overcome resistance and draw people closer to you, instead of getting sucked into a power struggle. Great modeling for any type of relationship.
Thank you Blair. It has been a journey of learning and with any journey it’s nice to meet people along the way who see the value.
Warmest thanks and regards,
I think our tendency towards resistance is to push back and be defensive. I like the empathetic approach you mention in this interesting article. Resistance is the other party giving us information about their fear
s and/or lack information in the face of change. If we are able to remain humble and see this as a piece of helpful information, we can empathize with others worries and teach them with additional information that will seek to add clarification. This is a win for everybody! Embrace the defensiveness.
Thank you Sheryl. I am so glad you found these stories interesting and the advice helpful. I love your summary of the core point “Embrace the defensiveness!”
So pleased to have your thoughts here and grateful for your contribution to this discussion.
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