June 12, 2012

Is Empathy Helping or Hurting Your Career?

Adapted from Dr. Judith Orloff’s new book “Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself From Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life” (Three Rivers Press, 2011)

When President Obama announced he was looking for a Supreme Court nominee who demonstrated empathy, it triggered a national conversation about empathy--and whether it's a pro or con for a justice of the highest US court.

How about in the workplace? Is empathy an asset--or does it make you appear weak, indecisive, and vulnerable?

In the workplace, empathy has both an upside and a downside. People who are extremely empathic and sensitive need to be aware of both.


Take this self-assessment test from “Emotional Freedom” to see if you are a super-empathic person.

YesNoHave I been labeled by coworkers as "too emotional" or overly sensitive?
YesNoIf a coworker is distraught, does it affect my mood at work?
YesNoAre my feelings easily hurt when a supervisor or peer delivers negative feedback?
YesNoAm I emotionally drained when I have to work closely with others, and do I require time alone to revive?
YesNoDo my nerves get frayed by office noise, machine noise, smells, or excessive talking?
YesNoDo I prefer working quietly and off by myself?
YesNoDo I overeat or need a happy hour cocktail to deal with work-related stress?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you're at least part empath. Reponding yes to more than three indicates that you're quite sensitive and empathic.


You are big hearted, and big-hearted people are gifted helpers and mentors. Empaths are patient, kind, and compassionate--just what you need as a manager, trainer, or team leader.

You are passionate, and passionate people put their all into projects. Empathetic people are passionate about their beliefs and ideas. In creative roles, or as sales or marketing people, passion is a plus.

You are intuitive, and intutive people can read between the lines. Empaths often perceive gray areas in a discussion or sense unspoken tension in meetings. Their ability to read others' feelings is a critical skill in negotiating and personnel management.

You are an emotionally responsive person, and that means you are a great communicator. Listening is an essential business skill, and those who are best at it are emotional empaths who have a well-developed ability to relate to others, and then interpret or build on what they see and hear.

You are "in touch" with your emotions, which means others can connect well with you. We most admire and best relate to people who are authentic. In other words, they show their emotions. In the business world, being "real" helps you build networks, earn the loyalty of others, win clients, and forge alliances.


You're an emotional sponge. Super empathetic people tend to pick up on others' emotions. This can be detrimental when a cool-headed leader is needed, or when an objective perspective would yield a clearer decision.

You're prone to anxiety, depression, and fatigue. If you're always tuned in to coworkers' feelings, it's difficult to keep your nerves from getting frazzled. You need to be able to process emotions coming at you from all directions.

You may find it hard to work well with others. Empaths often need to work alone, and they seek solitude in order to regain their calm. Other's may see you as antisocial.

You may be a victim of emotional vampires. Emotional vampires are people who suck the energy right out of you and leave you feeling drained and depleted. They may do this by being needy, talkative, cruel, or by running right over you. There are lots of different types of emotional vampires--and they're naturally drawn to empaths like you.

If you are a super sensitive and empathetic person, be aware of the ways this wonderful trait serves you in the workplace. But be extra careful to protect your emotional and physical health, because empathetic people are, by definition, more vulnerable and open than their peers.

Judith Orloff MD, an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA and intuition expert, is author of the New York Times Bestseller Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself From Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life (Three Rivers Press, 2011) Her other bestsellers are Positive Energy, Intuitive Healing, and Second Sight. Dr. Orloff synthesizes the pearls of traditional medicine with cutting edge knowledge of intuition and energy medicine. She passionately believes that the future of medicine involves integrating all this wisdom to achieve emotional freedom and total wellness. www.drjudithorloff.com

Please check out “Dr. Orloff’s Living Room Series” to find out more about the special method Dr. Orloff recommends to remember your dreams and other topics to build the power within. Stop by
www.youtube.com/judithorloffmd anytime.

PURCHASE paperback book, Whose Stuff Is This? Finding Freedom from the Thoughts, Feelings,and Energy of Those Around You at http://tinyurl.com/EmpathAmazon. The e-book version is now available for Kindle, iPhone, iPad, and other digital reading devices.

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