Empathy Training: It’s Not Just for Millennials

Happy summer, everyone! We hope you’re relaxing, recharging, and collecting cool ideas for teaching bcomm in the fall.

An article just “came across my desk” (in an email from the Association for Talent Development) that I thought was relevant to us. I wrote earlier
about the fact that Millennials, because of the era in which they grew up, have difficulty putting themselves in other people’s shoes, especially people who are not like them.

Looks like they’re not the only ones who could use some empathy training. As the article points out, upper-level managers can also become more effective if they pause to think about things from their employees’ perspectives.

As we know, understanding others and meeting them where they are is a key–if not the key–to effective business communication. So helping our students be more empathetic is not just a way to make them more considerate and ethical (though it is that); it’s a critical part of their development as successful communicators. Exposing them to different kinds of audiences, encouraging their imagination of others’ circumstances, even having them role play–anything we can do to help them stretch their ability to empathize is all to the good.

While we’re speaking of execs . . . , check out this list of what they’re reading these days, according to McKinsey & Company. What’s striking to me is that most of these highly successful businesspeople aren’t just focused on business books. They’re reading history, fiction, biography, and other material that broadens their knowledge and helps them understand others better.

Let’s encourage our students to do likewise!


2 thoughts on “Empathy Training: It’s Not Just for Millennials

  1. Very interesting! It would be neat idea to use exec reading lists as model and motivation for students: choose an exec’s favorite reading? In fact, this could be explicitly related to empathy and emotional intelligence development. Studies have shown that literary fiction in particular can have a positive impact. See (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/novel-finding-reading-literary-fiction-improves-empathy/) and (http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0055341).


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