Foreshadowing Empathy

Sometimes you need to make an announcement or take an action that will likely cause discomfort. Leaders who recognize this in advance can shape the message by foreshadowing empathy.

This means that although the impact of the bad news may be hard, you understand its effect and are standing in the shoes of the people receiving the message.

This isn’t just a superficial act. It shows your employees and other constituents that you genuinely understand not just their point of view, but how they may feel. If people perceive that the leader cares about the situation, they will be more likely to hunker down despite difficult circumstances.

Leaders who don’t really care about how their message is being received appear to their employees as unfeeling and insensitive. This can result in a slackening of effort, even an attitude of “why should I care if this is how she or he is thinks.” Their employees are likely to switch off, go through the motions, and do a minimal amount of work.

Employees know when a message is sincere or thoughtless. And what follows the delivery of such a message has a big impact. Keep in mind that this can be exactly the same message; how it is delivered makes the difference.

Remember that you have a choice in how you deliver a difficult message, and that foreshadowing empathy can make all the difference in the outcome. Empathetic leaders are likely to achieve better outcomes.

Your ability to foreshadow empathy takes it a step further in that you have made sure that your messaging is layered in empathy rather than callousness.

Header image by Liza Summer/Pexels.

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