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Coalition Engagement Skill #7: Show empathy

If you had a chance to participate in one of my recent Masterclasses, you will know that we spent a lot of time on the importance of showing empathy and compassion. Everyone in our  “zoom squares” has a story. We never know what may be happening in the lives of our coalition members. They may be feeling completely overwhelmed, excited about a new opportunity or facing major budget cuts. Some coalition members may have lost their job, been furloughed or have a new boss. Others may be struggling with many personal challenges – caregiving, parenting, health issues, loss of loved ones or difficult family or friend relationships.  Join me this week as I highlight three ways you can practice showing empathy to your coalition members.


Really seek first to understand your coalition members. Actively listen. Avoid trying to propose a solution. When you don’t know what to say, here is an example: “I don’t know what to say but I’m really glad you told me. I’m here to support you.”  When showing empathy, try using fewer words!

Remove “at least”

Remove “at least” from your conversations. When we say “at least,” we dismiss the importance and struggle that our colleague shared with us. This creates disconnection rather than connection. Showing empathy is very different from showing sympathy. If you want to learn more, check out Brené Brown’s short video highlighting the difference between empathy and sympathy.

Walk with your coalition members

Be willing to walk with your coalition members. Even if you have never experienced the exact situation, you can connect with the emotions they are experiencing. When they are struggling with discouragement, frustration, overwhelm, loss, sadness, anger and many other emotions, you can connect with experiences in your life and work where you have experienced similar emotions. Don’t make it about you, but walk with them and show you care. Check in with your coalition members and let them know you are thinking about them. Send them a short message, a hand-written note or give them a call. 

When your coalition members are struggling to give their best and engage in the coalition and you show empathy, you will build trust, strengthen the relationship and support engagement in the coalition. Even if they cannot actively participate for a time, if you show empathy, when they can be involved again, they will be!

What about you? What are some ways you have recently shown empathy to your coalition members?

Download my newest free resource where I provide additional guidance on how to show empathy.

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

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