A key part of good management is effective communication. This helps to establish a positive culture at work, one where people have empathy for each other. Showing empathy is important, research has found, because it increases employee engagement and productivity.
Empathy is especially important when giving feedback because you want to be honest about a person’s performance, but at the same time, you do not want to alienate the person. Body language is especially important in creating a feeling of empathy because it is a significant part of the communication process. Here are a few ways to show empathy through body language when giving feedback to employees.
1. Facial expression
This surely is no surprise to anyone. We attempt to discern the attitudes and emotions of others from reading their facial expressions. That is why when giving feedback it is important to smile. When we see someone smiling, see their warmth and good feelings, it incites the same feelings in us.
2. Eye contact
Again, this is known to everyone. Eyes are also accurate registers of feelings. You can tell a lot about what a person is feeling from looking at their eyes. So, when giving feedback it is important to look the person in the eye to make a connection.
What you say is important, but also how you say it. Tone of voice also reveals a lot about a person’s feelings and frame of mind, often more than the words themselves.
How you stand or sit also conveys a strong message about how you feel. For example, if you are talking to someone and you have your arms crossed over your chest, this shows feelings of being annoyed or perturbed. It distances the person from whomever he or she is talking to.
To make a better connection, you should have your arms open, nod, smile, give a word of acknowledgement occasionally as you listen.
You have probably recognized how your breathing changes depending on how you feel. If you are angry or upset, you tend to breathe more quickly. If you are annoyed or frustrated, you tend to sigh more. So, before you meet with someone to give feedback, focus on your breathing for a bit. Inhale and exhale more deeply and slowly to help give you a feeling of calm.
Research has shown that our minds wander half the time. This is not surprising considering all the information we are bombarded with throughout the day. But when you meet with someone to give feedback, you need to be fully present, to give the person your complete attention. Only this way can you really absorb what they are saying and respond effectively.