I've been doing quite a lot of research and training lately on empathy.
Needless to say, I think it is one of the most important words in existence, and it is even more important to practice it- regardless of your profession. Even the NYPD is teaching empathy in their Smart Policing training for all of their patrol officers (really- see here and here from Commissioner Bratton).
For conflict resolution professionals, and everyone else working with people involved in conflicts and disputes, here's a short friendly reminder of why empathy is so important:
"Empathy should not be confused with sympathy,
which indicates pity.
In crisis intervention,
the goal is not to feel sorry for the person in crisis, but to
establish a relationship through effective communication whereby positive steps can be taken toward
resolving the crisis in a collaborative fashion."
Jeff Thompson, Ph.D., is a professor at Lipscomb University, researcher, mediator, and trainer. He is also involved in crisis and hostage negotiation as well as a law enforcement detective. His research includes law enforcement crisis and hostage negotiation in terrorist incidents. He received his doctorate from Griffith University Law School having researched the impact nonverbal communication has in conflict situations with respect to developing rapport, building trust, and displaying professionalism.
Dr. Thompson has presented and trained on the topic of conflict, mediation, (crisis and hostage) negotiation, communication and nonverbal communication internationally for a variety of audiences including police personnel, government officials, judges, attorneys, physicians, sales people, business professionals, and both graduate and undergraduate students. He has also been published in numerous professional and academic publications.
He is the co-chair of ACR's national Crisis Negotiation Section, and he is an ad-hoc reviewer for multiple academic journals. He received his MS in Negotiation and Dispute Resolution from the Werner Institute, Creighton University School of Law.
(All posts by Jeff Thompson represent his personal reflections and opinions and not that of any organization.)