According to a report by Great Place to Work, 84% of employees at Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” look forward to work each day, compared to only 42% of other U.S workers. The significant difference between these “Best Companies to Work For” and the rest is the emphasis on culture. Setting an intentional, caring culture for your team shows employees that you prioritize them first, which ultimately helps everyone feel more secure in their jobs, connected to their teams, and motivated to work.
Building an empathetic culture starts with your communication with team members. At Crystal, we believe empathetic communication is the solution. Simply put, empathetic communication is a way of adapting your style to communicate with others the way they like, rather than the way you want.
One way to ensure you’re communicating empathetically is by considering what we call “The Empathy Equation.” It looks like this:
WHAT + WHY + HOW
This “equation” makes it easier to set yourself up for success when talking to others. To use the Empathy Equation, you need to identify three key variables before engaging in an interaction:
For example, let’s say you need to discuss a couple of problems you’re having with a team member, who we’ll call Amy. While it may be an uncomfortable conversation, if you think about the factors of the Empathy Equation beforehand, you can go into the conversation with much more confidence that you’ll be able to work through the issues at hand:
WHAT = Amy wants to feel heard, understood, and respected, especially during disagreements where she may otherwise be feeling insecure, stressed, or frustrated. She likely wants to approach the problem carefully, with a lot of intentional thought.
WHY = She places a lot of value in patience and loyalty since she cares about what others think of her and generally builds trust and comfort over time.
HOW = She feels most comfortable in the lengthy, in-person discussion, so you should plan ahead and set aside a time to talk through the specific problem. It may help if you both find a better way to express disagreements in the future so you can avoid creating a conflict in the first place.
By considering these factors before talking with Amy, you can be sure to adapt your communication to best suit her needs so you can each get the most out of the conversation. While an authentic culture of empathy practices empathetic communication in all circumstances, two major instances in which you should adapt your communication style are while leading meetings and resolving conflict.
You can apply tools like the Empathy Equation on a larger scale by broadly considering how different personalities on your team want to interact in different situations. Because meetings are an essential part of every team, it’s important to carry this empathetic approach into how you structure your meetings.
Here’s how different personality types like to meet:
Confident, assertive personalities, like D-types in DISC, want direct, to-the-point communication along with set goals to work toward. They tend to want to avoid unnecessary, off-topic, or drawn-out conversations. Try to focus on addressing one topic at a time with D-types.
Enthusiastic, optimistic personalities, like I-types in DISC, seek inspiration, excitement, and encouragement from others in a meeting. They may want to take a few moments before diving in to connect with others in the group. It’s essential to give them the freedom to crack a joke or share a story, since both will help them feel more engaged with the meeting’s material.
Attentive, patient personalities, like S-types in DISC, accept different meeting styles since they are generally very accommodating. Though their genuine understanding can be reassuring, you can make them feel more welcomed and included by asking them to share their thoughts or opinions on the topic at hand. Avoid pressuring them, but make sure they have a chance to see that their voice matters.
Detailed, thorough personalities, like C-types in DISC, want meetings to be fact-focused and well planned out. They don’t generally want to bring up unrelated matters. You will likely help them feel more comfortable by sharing an agenda for the meeting beforehand and honoring the designated time.
Team meetings become a lot easier to navigate when you understand what each person needs. By intentionally adapting your communication in meetings to align with your team’s personality makeup, you’ll improve your team’s productivity and comfort in any discussion.
People also manage conflict differently depending on their personality, , meaning that tensions with each personality type should be handled differently. While some people prefer a direct, logical approach to working through tension, others prefer to approach conflict gently. Considering differences concerning conflict resolution can help you avoid worsening interpersonal issues and, instead, handle tough situations with care and empathy.
Confident, assertive personalities, like D-types in DISC, tend to be direct and, at times, blunt. They are likely to be clear and firm when they’re frustrated. When resolving conflict with D-types, you should hold your ground. Give them a chance to arrive at conclusions on their own. But above all, avoid micromanaging or controlling their actions.
Enthusiastic, optimistic personalities, like I-types in DISC, appreciate when others approach issues with an open mind. They tend to avoid upsetting others and may not always directly communicate how they’re feeling, so try to be attentive to their body language. Make sure to avoid escalating an argument beyond the specific issue at hand.
Attentive, patient personalities, like S-types in DISC, may feel more comfortable if you stay calm and patient, ask them questions about their perspective, and reassure them in difficult situations. They tend to feel uncomfortable arguing, so don’t assume things are resolved if they don’t push back. Instead, focus on helping them feel safe.
Detailed, thorough personalities, like C-types in DISC, appreciate a logical and objective approach to conflict. Use specific evidence to prove your points and avoid questioning their abilities or using overly emotional language.
Learning to address tense issues in a way that helps everyone feel understood and comfortable can prevent unnecessary stress or frustration. Empathetic communication plays a major role in resolving conflict in a caring, considerate way, which ultimately helps your whole team feel at ease in the workplace.
Creating and maintaining a culture of empathy is an ongoing process, but it can help ensure that your team is happy and connected. You can begin to better understand the different personalities and communication styles at play on your team using Crystal’s quick and free personality test.