Team Player Skills

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Effective Team Players in the Workplace – Warning: Sympathy and Empathy aren’t enough!

How to be a Better Team Member During Challenges? This One Characteristic Can Certainly Help!

Team Players in the Workplace

When individuals and teams encounter challenges (including mistakes and failures), the compassionate culture is more likely to out perform the sympathetic and empathetic one. When defining a respectful team, there are many attributes used, including empathy and sympathy; compassion is most often missed. While sympathy, empathy, and compassion can all contribute to teamwork, compassion can also have the greater potential to positively address the challenges, moving the individuals and teams forward.

What’s the difference between sympathy, empathy, and compassion on a team?

  • Sympathy can be defined as feeling care and even sadness about another individual’s distress over their challenges. To exist, sympathy must come from one’s own perspective and judgment that the other individual’s distress is valid. From the outside, standing in our own metaphorical shoes, we can sympathize even though we may not have ever been in the shoes of the other individual and may not know what their feelings are like.
  • Empathy can be defined as sharing the feelings of another individual, by thinking from their experience and perspective. For empathy to exist, we must have some understanding of the distress that the individual has as a result of their challenges. We empathize as we look from the inside out, standing in their metaphorical shoes. In many cases, but not all, we have been in a similar challenge ourselves and know what their feelings are like.
  • Compassion, derived from Latin origin meaning ‘to suffer together’,  is experiencing the feelings of others as if the feelings are our own and being moved to help. For true compassion to exist, action must happen, where we do something to reduce the distress that the individual has over their challenges. We have compassion as we stand side-by-side with the individual to face the challenges together. Compassion motivates us to support an individual through their challenges, whether we have or have not  been in a similar situation ourselves and whether we we know or don’t know what their feelings are like.

Though sympathy and empathy can exist independently of both each other and compassion, compassion most often exists in the presence of sympathy and empathy. While sympathy, empathy, and compassion are all agents of a respectful team that can impact performance, compassion can produce greater results, as a more effective agent of both team building and change. Compassion is more than identifying with another individuals’ feelings at some level like sympathy and empathy, compassion is wanting to positively influence the feelings, by addressing the challenges. Compassion compels us to help and support, and it is this action, that can contribute to changing the situation. While we may appreciate one’s sympathy and empathy, on a team, a culture of compassion is more aligned with the true spirit of teamwork – people working together to surmount challenges and achieve goals.

When you reflect on your own teams and the team members – Where might you move yourself to help more?

Now, with whatever thought(s) you have in mind…what are you waiting for? Time to move!

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