written by Lynne Waymon
A sense of community at work. Yet, according to researcher Sara Konrath, they haven’t yet developed the skills that will help them build lasting relationships. She reports
“. . . a 40% drop in empathy among college students in the
past 20 years, as measured by standard psychological tests.”
What’s the evidence?
Konrath is with the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. She collated data on this from 72 studies. She attributes the decline in empathy to young people being so digitally-oriented that they haven’t developed experience in building face-to-face relationships.
“Taking on another person’s thoughts and identifying with their emotions are two habits at the core of empathy. Empathy is a delicate cocktail, blending assorted elements of inborn aptitude, social conditioning, personal history, and practice and motivation. The ability to empathize is like a muscle – it’s capable of growth.”
What does that mean for people in Training & Development?
That “soft skills,” often relegated to last place in the training calendar (and budget!) must come front and center. It means that teaching practical relationship building skills can have a positive effect on your employee engagement scores and productivity.
Can people really be taught to empathize, engage, connect?
Yes. We’ve seen it happen with our clients, whose employees are in many different functional roles. Relationships don’t just happen. The ability to trust, engage in give and take, appreciate each other, celebrate and commiserate together, ask good questions, listen, collaborate, and express liking and be likable . . . are all LEARNED skills.
What’s the next step?
Review your programs in Orientation, Mentoring, Diversity, Leadership, Business Development, and Professional Development. Do they include the practical, how-to’s for connecting, conversing, and collaborating? If so, congratulations! If not, how can you include them?
Lynne Waymon is a co-founder and principal at Contacts Count LLC, the international training firm that specializes in teaching business and professional networking skills. The firm’s clients during the last 25 years range from CPA firms to banks, from engineers to HR professionals, and from attorneys to Fortune 100 companies.
Contacts Count’s training programs, keynotes, webinars, and train-the-trainer events help people put the tools of networking to work in the service of business goals. Their Networking Competency Assessment measures skill in 8 competency areas. Their newest book, Strategic Connections: The New Face of Networking in a Collaborative World is available in bulk from the publisher and by single copy at Amazon.com.