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Almost 50 percent of human resource managers said about half of employee turnover was due to burnout, according to a study by The Workforce Institute and Future Workplace. Difficult workplace conditions, the pressure to perform (from both yourself and your employer), the demands of personal life, and more can take a toll.
Yet, under the same conditions not everyone experiences burnout. Why? One key may be emotional intelligence, and in particular, empathy and compassion practiced in a balanced way. Cultivating these traits helps you focus on yourself less and connect more deeply with others.
You might think you could find standard definitions of empathy and compassion, but that’s not the case. One definition is empathy refers to the ability to take the perspective of and feel the emotions of another person, while compassion includes the desire to help.
A Harvard Business Review article uses an opposite definition, defining empathy as “compassion in action.” The article states, “When you engage empathy, you seek to understand people’s needs, desires, and point of view. You feel and express genuine concern for their well-being, and then you act on it.”
Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, defines empathy as “sensing others’ feelings and perspectives, and taking an active interest in their concerns.” He also describes three types of empathy:
1. Cognitive empathy is seeing the world through another person’s eyes.
2. Emotional empathy means feeling what the other person feels.
3. Empathic concern, also called compassionate empathy, means understanding and feeling a person’s situation and also feeling moved to help.