Empathy®: I Feel Your Pain

Well, if you have the Empathy® CliftonStrengths talent theme you also feel others’ joy, sadness, grief, hopes, and a host of other emotions. Your intuition about others’ moods, emotions, and motivations is powerful and profound. Did you know that empathy is now recognized as an essential leadership quality? It makes sense since leaders are leading people, not leading things. So if you have a top 5 Empathy talent not only are you incredibly intuitive about people, your intuition can be very helpful when you are called on to lead others. Read more about this highly relational and intuitive talent…  


Empathy means you feel what others feel. I’ve observed that people with a high-ranking Empathy talent can walk into a room and immediately sense the emotional temperature in the room. They can also drill down on individuals and have a strong sense of each person’s mood, motivation, and perspective. That doesn’t mean that you condone their perspective or choices, merely that you actually feel what they feel. This is a very powerful trait and is worthy of great respect. 

You are highly intuitive about emotions. This allows you to connect deeply. When others are at a loss for words about their feelings, you fill in the blanks. This ability along with an approachable, non-judgmental attitude draws people to you.

Empathy and irony. I find it fascinating that people with empathy in their top 5 are keen to know others’ emotions and not so keen to be “known.” Often times, Empathy people are quiet, reserved, and not so vulnerable about their own emotions. When two people with high-ranking Empathy meet, they may feel uneasy around each other because they like to “read people” and are less enthused about being “read.” Also, if someone says the wrong thing at the wrong time, you may find yourself not so empathetic to the offender’s ignorance as to the offended’s offense.

Here are some other words that may describe you:

  • Understanding
  • Genuine
  • Moody
  • Confidant
  • Champion
  • Comforter
  • Tactful
  • Approachable

While often stereotyped as a great talent for teachers, counselors, and such here are some other great roles for people with high ranking Empathy. Again, leaders! Leaders lead people and when a leader is able to feel what those who are led feel that leader is much more effective. People are less likely to burn-out and more likely to trust and follow. Salespeople with Empathy have insight into the wants and desires of their clients. 

I find it troubling and shortsighted that so many posts and articles about Empathy compare it to “more practical” talents. What could be more practical than understanding people? The Enlightenment did us no favors by elevating intellect above emotion. While the two work in tandem, humans are first and foremost emotional beings. Furthermore, there is abundant research to indicate that feelings are the driving factor behind decisions. So, while we like to say we “are logical,” what we really do is look at data, tell ourselves a story about it, and then make a decision based on our feelings more than the actual numbers. So, please respect empathy.

If empathy is in your top 5 CliftonStrengths talent themes, be glad, respect it, and grow it! Develop a list of great questions for people, expand your vocabulary of emotions, develop strong personal boundaries for your emotions, and learn how to process your own emotions with others.

For the rest of us not blessed with a top 5 Empathy talent there is hope. While we will probably never be as intuitive as a person with Empathy in their top 5, empathy is also a skill. It is an essential component of Emotional Intelligence and it can be learned. We just have to work a lot harder than those with Empathy in their top 5.

If you have Empathy in your top 5 talent themes, what are you doing to strengthen that talent this week? How does it help you? How does it hurt you? Remember, your talents are always influencing each other so pair your other top 5 talents with Empathy and ask yourself, what does my Maximizer®-Empathy look like? What is Strategic®-Empathy?

Thanks for reading! I look forward to reading your comments.

CliftonStrengths” and the 34 CliftonStrengths theme names are registered trademarks of Gallup, Inc. The graphic elements copyright © CoreClarity, Inc.

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