Everyone is your customer: clients, vendors, and colleagues. Workplace satisfaction improves when we extend respect to internal customers—colleagues and supervisors.
How do you do this?
Two communication strategies from Patient Experience training help us deal with even the most frustrating internal customers: Empathy and Listening..
Imagine a Compassion Continuum with apathy at the low end and empathy at the high end. True empathy is putting yourself in another’s shoes.
- It’s natural to avoid feeling others’ vulnerability and frustrations.
- Challenge yourself. Go beyond interest and compassion. Put yourself in your colleagues’ shoes.
- Uttering comforting words without empathy creates a sense of detachment or feigned interest.
Listen, then Speak.
It’s easy to avoid talking to a colleague about something difficult. Three steps from the Language of Caring are the answer. This “empathy sandwich” reaches beyond defensiveness and conflict to collaborative solutions.
- Show empathy and listen actively. Show that you understand. “I’m sorry the document is not ready. I know it’s frustrating.”
- Provide information that clarifies procedures, policies, and problems. “Documents must be created, approved by two departments, then sent to legal. This takes time up front but saves time and big problems later.”
- Apologize for their experience to show you understand the problem and their feelings. End with an empathic statement. “I’m sorry this wasn’t explained to you before. I really appreciate your understanding.”
Take a risk! Be empathic partners with your colleagues, leaders, and external customers.