The most effective diversity and inclusion engagements focus on both awareness and skills (Bezrukova et al., 2016).
- Diversity trainings can help change beliefs and behaviors, but the effects of those trainings decrease as time passes. These changes are more likely to last if they are supported by on-going engagement on the topic that supports the training (Bezrukova et al., 2016)
- The most effective diversity and inclusion engagements focus on both awareness and skills (Bezrukova et al., 2016)
- Virtual engagement around empathy skills have been shown to be effective (Foster et al., 2016)
- Engaging in short conversations primarily focused around listening to the views/stories of someone you don’t know has been shown to help increase empathy in the listener (Manusov et al, 2020)
- Emotional recognition of recorded videos has been shown to increase empathy as well as the propensity to take continue practicing empathetic skills (Lobchuck et al., 2016)
- Demographics have no impact on the interest in or participation in voluntary trainings focused on diversity and inclusion (Kulik et al., 2007)
- The more competent someone feels around D&I issues, the more likely they are to seek out and participate in additional trainings or opportunities to grow their skills (Kulik et al., 2007)
What is empathy?
Empathy is the active process of putting oneself into the perspective world of another (Bell, 2018)
Empathy has 3 main components (Bell, 2018):
- Empathy has 3 main components (Bell, 2018):
- Cognitive empathy involves using one’s logic to perspective-take on another’s situation. Cognitive empathy skills may be learned through reasoning and connecting with another through thoughtful reflection.
- Affective or emotional empathy is focused on one’s emotional response to another person’s feelings or predicament. Affective empathy is an innate, deeply felt connection that allows a person to experience another’s emotions.
- Compassionate empathy is the ability to sense the needs of another and feel driven to take action to help them. This is sometimes called empathic concern and is differentiated by its connection to taking action based on your perceptions.
Empathy is facilitated in the brain through mirror neurons. Mirror neurons are present in the premotor cortex of the brain, and fire when people watch others do something as if they were doing it themselves. These neurons influence humans to believe that another person is doing or thinking the same as they themselves would do or think in a similar situation. (Bell, 2018)
Why focus on empathy?
Empathy can be taught (Srivastava & Das, 2016; Bell, 2018)
- Empathy can be taught (Bell, 2018 ; Srivastava & Das, 2016)
- Increased empathy has been linked to decreased prejudice (Shih et al., 2013) and decreased bias (Mutlow, 2020; Whitford & Emerson, 2019)
- Empathy has been shown to decrease racial disparities in medical treatment (Drwecki et al., 2011).
How does empathy impact businesses?
- Empathy has been found to be important for motivating and leading teams (Holt et al., 2017; Humphrey, 2013) and leaders with higher empathy appear to be more effective (Rahman & Castelli, 2013). This includes increased employee engagement with work, increase job satisfaction, and increased productivity (Holt et al., 2017)
- Businesses in the top quartile of employee engagement around empathy showed 41 percent lower absenteeism, 24 percent lower turnover, 17 percent higher productivity, and 20 percent higher sales (Martin, 2019)
- Empathy trainings with sales staff have been shown to increase the intent to purchase from customers (Peterson & Limbu, 2009)
- Empathy is connected to being attuned to customers’ wants or thoughts, higher customer satisfaction, and being more innovative (Holt et al., 2017; Humphrey, 2013). It has also been connected to greater customer loyalty (Larty, 2015) and more inclusive designs(Mutlow, 2020)
How do you build empathy?
- Perspective-taking, particularly around people who have differences from our own identities, is a key skill in empathy (Bell, 2018; Drwecki et al., 2011; Webster, 2010; Alligood, 2005)
- Personal reflection is an important part of any activity that supports the development of empathy skills. (Bell, 2018; Neufeldt et al., 1996)
- Listening to stories from others encourage reflection and perspective taking (Greenhalgh & Hurwitz,1998)
- Alligood, M. (2005). Rethinking empathy in nursing education: Shifting to a developmental view. In M. H. Oermann & M. H. Oermann (Eds.), Annual review of nursing education volume 3: Strategies for teaching, assessment, and program planning. (pp. 299–309). New York, NY: Springer.
- Bell, H. (2018). Creative interventions for teaching empathy in the counseling classroom. Journal of Creativity in Mental Health, 13(1), 106-120.
- Bezrukova, K., Spell, C. S., Perry, J. L., & Jehn, K. A. (2016). A meta-analytical integration of over 40 years of research on diversity training evaluation. Psychological Bulletin, 142(11), 1227.
- Drwecki, B. B., Moore, C. F., Ward, S. E., & Prkachin, K. M. (2011). Reducing racial disparities in pain treatment: The role of empathy and perspective-taking. Pain, 152(5), 1001-1006.
- Foster, A., Chaudhary, N., Kim, T., Waller, J. L., Wong, J., Borish, M., ... & Buckley, P. F. (2016). Using virtual patients to teach empathy: a randomized controlled study to enhance medical students’ empathic communication. Simulation in Healthcare, 11(3), 181-189.
- Greenhalgh, T., & Hurwitz, B. (1998). Narrative Based Medicine Dialogue and discourse in clinical practice.
- Holt, S., Marques, J., Hu, J., & Wood, A. (2017). Cultivating empathy: New perspectives on educating business leaders. The Journal of Values-Based Leadership, 10(1), 3.
- Humphrey, R. H. (2013). The benefits of emotional intelligence and empathy to entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship Research Journal, 3(3), 287-294.
- Kulik, C. T., Pepper, M. B., Roberson, L., & Parker, S. K. (2007). The rich get richer: Predicting participation in voluntary diversity training. Journal of Organizational Behavior: The International Journal of Industrial, Occupational and Organizational Psychology and Behavior, 28(6), 753-769.
- Lartey, F. M. (2015). Increasing promoters in the residential broadband service industry: Relationship between customer satisfaction and loyalty using ordinal logistic regression 23 (Order No. 3682580). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global; ProQuest Dissertations and Theses A&I: The Humanities and Social Sciences Collection. (1658144293). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1658144293
- Lobchuk, M., Halas, G., West, C., Harder, N., Tursunova, Z., & Ramraj, C. (2016). Development of a novel empathy-related video-feedback intervention to improve empathic accuracy of nursing students: A pilot study. Nurse Education Today, 46, 86–93. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.nedt.2016.08.034
- Manusov, V., Stofleth, D., & Reynolds, R. (2020). Advocating for Dialogue: Short and Long-Term Outcomes of Seattle-Based KUOW Radio’s “Ask a” Project. Howard Journal of Communications, 31(3), 231-244.
- Martin, T. (2019, April 9). Why empathy in the workplace could boost your company’s success. The Olson Group. https://theolsongroup.com/why-empathy-in-the-workplace-could-boost-success/
- Mutlow, N. (2020, July 2). Design innovation start with empathy. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/servicenow/2020/07/02/design-innovation-starts-with-empathy/amp/
- Neufeldt, S. A., Karno, M. P., & Nelson, M. L. (1996). A qualitative study of experts' conceptualizations of supervisee reflectivity. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 43(1), 3.
- Peterson, R. T., & Limbu, Y. (2009). The convergence of mirroring and empathy: Communications training in business-to-business personal selling persuasion efforts. Journal of Business-to-business Marketing, 16(3), 193-219.
- Rahman, W. A., & Castelli, P. A. (2013). The impact of empathy on leadership effectiveness among business leaders in the United States and Malaysia. International Journal of Economics Business and Management Studies, 2(3), 83-97.
- Shih, M. J., Stotzer, R., & Gutiérrez, A. S. (2013). Perspective-taking and empathy: Generalizing the reduction of group bias towards Asian Americans to general outgroups. Asian American Journal of Psychology, 4(2), 79–83.
- Srivastava, K., & Das, R. C. (2016). Empathy: Process of adaptation and change, is it trainable?. Industrial Psychiatry Journal, 25(1), 1.
- Webster, D. (2010). Promoting empathy through a creative reflective teaching strategy: A mixed-method study. Journal of Nursing Education, 49(2), 87–94. http://dx.doi.org/10.3928/01484834-20090918-09
- Whitford, D. K., & Emerson, A. M. (2019). Empathy intervention to reduce implicit bias in pre-service teachers. Psychological reports, 122(2), 670-688.