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Empathy: Highlights From Your CliftonStrengths 34

Empathy: Highlights From Your CliftonStrengths 34

Webcast Details

  • Gallup Theme Thursday Webcast Series
  • Season 5, Empathy
  • The CliftonStrengths themes at the top of your profile are the most powerful and give you the greatest chance for success. Join us as we discuss Empathy.

Join Jim Collison and Maika Leibbrandt as they talk about your Empathy talent theme -- helping you unlock the power of truly understanding yourself through how you get things done, influence others, connect with people and think critically -- on this Theme Thursday Season 5 webcast.

NEW for Season 5: Below is a full transcript of the conversation, including time stamps. Full audio and video are posted above.

Jim Collison 0:00

I'm Jim Collison and live from the Gallup Studios here in Omaha, Nebraska, this is Gallup's Theme Thursday, Season 5, recorded on August 29, 2019.

Jim Collison 0:21

Theme Thursday's a Gallup webcast series that dives deep into the CliftonStrengths themes, one theme at a time. And today's theme is Empathy. If you're listening live, we'd love to have you join us in our chat room -- many of you already there; thanks for doing that. If you have questions after the fact or you're listening to the recorded version, send us an email: Maika Leibbrandt is our host today. She works as a workplace consultant here at Gallup. Maika, always great to have you here on Thursdays. Welcome to Theme Thursday.

Maika Leibbrandt 0:44

Thanks, Jim. Gosh, it's great to be here. You know, the reason we do this is to really help people lean into their dominant themes. If you take a look at our new CliftonStrengths 34 report, which is 25 pages of amazing information about your talent, you'll notice that you've got all 34 themes, but those that always describe you, typically 1 to 5, maybe 1 to 10, are really your dominant themes. That's where the most power and the most potential truly lies. So if you possess today a great deal of Empathy talent, if it's one of your dominant themes, or if you care about someone who does, this podcast is for you.

Jim Collison 1:18

So what does it mean to have Empathy as my top talent theme?

Maika Leibbrandt 1:21

if you've got high Empathy, it's like having a sixth sense; you feel what other people are feeling. It's not thinking about others or considering their emotions; it's actually experiencing them.

Jim Collison 1:33

And how might people with this dominant theme of Empathy notice this in their life?

Maika Leibbrandt 1:36

Ever cried during a commercial for something you have almost no relationship to? It might be that you experience pretty -- pretty high highs and low lows emotionally -- even if they are not necessarily yours. It's it's an emotional theme. It's also the ability to predict other people's responses, to know what will land well with certain people. People might ask you for your take on how something is going among a group of people. You might be treated as that sort of emotional barometer. You probably can sense when something is isn't being taken well, as well as when it is. You also might be affected by the feelings of others. I'm reminded by when I was, you know, working with CliftonStrengths in the school setting, and there was this specific student who would come home from school really, really drained at the end of every day, even though everything was going super well for her. She had she personally would have a good experience, but she was carrying the weight of a couple of her classmates who were really having a hard time. And so it was about how do we help -- how do we help this student sort of understand that Empathy and understand what was going on, so she could make the most of it?

Jim Collison 2:47

In the All 34 report, we have this idea of blind spots, and so Empathy, when we think about Empathy, how can how can someone with it be held back from excellence?

Maika Leibbrandt 2:57

Sure, yeah. And blind spots are not a scientific diagnosis or a specific guarantee. It's completely possible that you would never experience some of these blind spots. But it is our responsibility to dive in and understand how our themes might show up in the world or what other people might perceive. One of the blind spots is Empathy that's not aimed at anything can be really draining -- kind of like that student that I mentioned previously. It's important to pay attention to your own energy levels; constantly experiencing the emotions of others can be exhausting. It's important to keep your own feelings in check as part of your own overall health. And even just acknowledge when you're carrying an emotional burden that really isn't yours. Maybe that means spending time with people who energize and uplift you. Maybe it means a digital detox, where you allow yourself to be the center of your own emotions instead of reading about others. Maybe it's even just about journaling -- what are you feeling? And being able to play some some nice stable barriers of between -- is this something that that I'm feeling or something I'm sensing of the feelings of others? I would also say Empathy is all about having a level of presence with other people. You probably can't turn that off, just like you can't not smell something; it's a sense. But it could be perceived as prying or intrusive by people who aren't ready for that level of presence. So ask permission, and stay true to the integrity of what you're experiencing, not what you think it might mean for someone else. So I think it's also about being careful to not go too far into interpreting what you're experiencing, but instead just name it. So rather than saying, for example, I feel like you're mad because XYZ happened. You might say, Hey, I'm sensing that you're not quite yourself -- what is it you are feeling?

Jim Collison 4:45

When we think about Empathy in the role of a team, I think is really, really important and a very important superpower in kind of understanding how the team is feeling about itself. How -- what other kind of roles can Empathy play on a team?

Maika Leibbrandt 4:56

Yeah, Empathy falls into that Relationship Building category, which describes those talent themes that are really about the glue of the team. Empathy, in many ways, holds a team together, rather than operating as a group of solo contributors. And specific to Empathy, it's about sensing the ebbing and flowing of energy that happens with emotion. So somebody with with high Empathy can keep their finger on the pulse of the the human element of the team. They could be a barometer, an indicator, if you will, on what creates the most emotional engagement. That could be which products, which processes, projects, or even just relationships are really working and creating that sense of "lift" that you get when people are engaged. You could position this person to pay attention to the idea of what's working emotionally, on purpose, and tap into that talent, help them understand that it is a special gift, and that they are one of those great indicators on a team for paying attention to the engagement of the team.

Maika Leibbrandt 5:55

To go a little bit deeper and compare Empathy to other Relationship Building themes, one of my favorite comparisons is that of Empathy and Positivity. I didn't come up with this on my own, but it's worth repeating. Empathy is an emotional thermometer, reading the emotional state. Positivity is an emotional thermostat, setting and affecting the emotional state. Empathy and Includer: walk into a meeting after it's already begun. Two people are co-presenting at the front of the room. And most of the attendees are listening, but there's a couple people sitting at the end of the table looking down at their phones. That's the facts. Empathy might say, I feel their disconnection. Whereas Includer would say, Let's find a way to bring those people into the conversation. Empathy and Individualization: Empathy says, I'm feeling what you're feeling. Individualization says, I'm picking up on what makes you unique. A lot of these Relationship Building themes, or I would even say any theme that's within the the same leadership domain, can look very similar to outside observers, but might come from slightly different motivations or, or different pathways of getting to what the other people are seeing.

Maika Leibbrandt 7:11

So it's important, I think, for individuals to be able to be armed with an understanding of their own talent so that they can really unpack those themes and learn more about ways that they can invest in them. It's not our job to have the right answer for exactly which of somebody's talent themes is showing up and what it looks like. It is our job as strengths enthusiasts and many of us as coaches to be able to make some hypotheses about how somebody might thrive and help them get there by asking questions that test out those hypotheses. In partnership, back to Empathy now, Empathy can bring quite a bit to a partnership. Empathy can drive really honest conversation. If you're experiencing something, it's hard to hide it from someone with Empathy. They're probably going to notice. So with permission, I think Empathy can be that person who says, Hey, what's really going on? It can also be be a relevance check for solutions. So ask Empathy -- ask somebody with Empathy to test whether what the group is working on is really going to meet the emotions that are present as part of the solution. Empathy can also be a sounding board. It doesn't take a lot of warm up or a lot of rapport building to get to a place where you feel seen and heard by people with Empathy. So again, if you'll let them in, they can be a fantastic place to feel very comfortable very quickly.

Jim Collison 8:27

Maika, we often think of Empathy as this kind of force from the outside sensing what is happening to a group on the inside. What we don't spend a lot of time is thinking about this idea of communicating. So advice, clues, communicating well with Empathy?

Maika Leibbrandt 8:41

Yeah, you know, I stole this first one from our CliftonStrengths 34 report, and then I even looked it up in Strengths Based Leadership, the book. One of the things that I think I've forgotten, as we've gotten to do this and sort of taken a lot of this advice on on our own was, we've got so many fantastic resources there to help you do this. So this first one is specific from the report. And again, in Strengths Based Leadership, there's a section for all 34 themes, where it says how to lead with this theme and how to lead others with this theme. So one of these that I that I took and want to underline here is: To pay attention to the person with Empathy, pay attention to what they're feeling, and don't get worried if they show emotion. Tears, for example, are one way that emotion simply leaves your body. It doesn't mean that that person is personally sad, but they might be emotional. So don't let that scare you. I would also say allow for space; allow space for them to make decisions based on instinct rather than logic all the time. Ask them what they're feeling, what their gut is telling them. Also, don't try and mask what you're experiencing. When you're communicating with somebody with high Empathy, they're going to see right through it. And they're going to feel like maybe you're putting up some walls. So do help them know, however, how heavy of an emotion or how important to you those emotions are. If you're the happiest you've ever been in your entire life, that's important, and you should name it. But if you're upset about something, and it's really, really bothering you, also name that. However, if you're just tired, and you know that you're coming across as grumpy, help people understand that you're just tired when you're dealing with somebody with Empathy. Again, they can probably sense it already. So just acknowledging that they're noticing goes a long way.

Jim Collison 10:25

And how might we inspire or motivate someone with Empathy?

Maika Leibbrandt 10:29

It's going to be inspiring for people with Empathy to work around positive, uplifting people. By definition, they're going to be affected by that. Also the authority to make decisions without having to prove their thought patterns or show their work. The ability to say, "You trust your gut, and we trust your gut too."

Jim Collison 10:48

Yeah, trust, I think is a really important part here. Right? It's not approving, it's, I've got this feeling, I don't know how to explain it, right? So pretty great. What can people do with Empathy to practice this every day? We've been going through this talent-mindfulness exercise, but what kind of things can they do?

Maika Leibbrandt 11:05

Yeah, so people with Empathy could practice it daily by finding ways to help other people bring their emotions out. So you don't just have to be the "fisher" -- the person who's fishing for helping them feel their emotions; you can help them feel them as well. So create a list of questions that get other people talking. Help be that sort of safari guide, that safe tour guide who says OK, I'm not blinded by emotion; I'm OK with emotion, I'm going to help you be OK with it, too. So, again, if you've got a list of great questions that get people talking, try asking one of those questions at least once every day. I would also say it's a great investment for people with high Empathy to get more well-versed in language that helps them express emotion, rather than just saying, He's very upset, having something more accurate to pinpoint exactly what you're sensing. So try, you could try this by looking first at yourself. Try journaling your current emotional state every day, at the same time of day. No judgment around whether you should be feeling that way, or why you're feeling that way. Just write down exactly what you're feeling. This will do two things for you. One, it would improve your words for describing feelings. And two, it's going to allow yourself to identify your own feelings rather than just those of other people.

Jim Collison 12:26

Maika, as we spend some time practicing this, we've got this -- I mentioned this a second ago -- this talent-mindfulness exercise; been really, really popular. We've gotten a lot of popular feedback on it. I am excited for this one for Empathy, because I think he got some great stuff in there. So let's, let's dig in a little bit. And sorry to put too much -- did I put -- I'm sensing I put too much pressure. (I'm just kidding.)

Maika Leibbrandt 12:49

No, I was just thinking, did you read that on my face? I was just thinking, I'm so honored that you read my notes. I love that you love this!

Jim Collison 12:56

Let's let's dive in.

Maika Leibbrandt 12:58

Great. So our talent-mindfulness practice is for you, not as somebody who's trying to understand different from the podcast up until now, it will take us now to the end. So about the next 3 to 5 minutes. I encourage you just to let go of any kind of judgment, take a deep breath in, and I'll guide you through this. Let that breath out. Let any expectations go. Empathy deals in the currency of emotion. We've talked about that quite a bit today. And today in our talent-mindfulness practice, we're going to help you sort through emotions that exist in your world. Now, I want to encourage you not to judge any of your experience as being good or bad. You will not be challenged at the end of today's exercise to do anything with the emotions that you're observing. Today is simply about acknowledging them. So let's take one more deep breath in. ... And exhale.

Maika Leibbrandt 14:00

Now that we're in a nice fresh headspace, think about the past 24 hours of your life. If you were a sports coach, playing game tape to review with your team, what moments would stand out? In your mind's eye, imagine what the past day looked like: where you went; what you did; what you heard, as if you're simply reviewing the entire 24-hour game tape. Now, let's review not just the whole 24 hours of video, but the feelings within those 24 hours. In the past 24 hours, where did you have the most energy? See in your mind what you were doing; who you were with, if anyone, and what was happening?

Maika Leibbrandt 15:04

In the past 24 hours, when did you feel a negative emotion? Again, play that film in your head. What was happening? What led up to it? What was that negative emotion that you felt? Give it a name. ... In the past 24 hours, when did you feel a positive emotion? When was a time throughout the past day that you felt something positive? What was going on? What was that feeling? Give it a name. What would you name that emotion? ... In the past 24 hours, when did you feel the most at peace? ...

Maika Leibbrandt 16:28

What we feel helps us understand what we experience. Our feelings inform our thoughts and encourage our behaviors. Being aware of your emotional experience without judgment or qualification builds those mindfulness muscles; it is a practice. Eventually, you might find that this leads you to a plan of action, something you can implement, something you learn so that you can invest further into your talent. But today really is just about practicing the acknowledgment of our own emotions. Let's take one more deep breath and come back to your consciousness for today. That brings us to the close of talent-mindfulness. Jim, back to you.

Jim Collison 17:20

It's all right, it's OK if I pop in now? Maika, I think the the important part in that and I don't normally critique these. But that is an exercise I'd love to see people do like on Fridays or something where -- and everybody, you don't have to have Empathy. This idea of negative emotion, positive emotion went right. Spent a lot of time in the car on my way home thinking through those things, not meditating because need to keep my eyes open.

Maika Leibbrandt 17:48

Because you're driving.

Jim Collison 17:49

I just find it a really helpful exercise to slow that down a little bit. Sometimes when I'm thinking of the negative things that, you know, my most stressful moments, and I actually need some calm moments to maybe think through those a little bit more. So I'd encourage folks, if you listen to that, if you blew through that part, do it again, or get it somewhere where you can kind of try -- do it in a quiet, do it after both good and negative emotions are happening to you.

Maika Leibbrandt 18:15

Or just do it regularly I think is key. One of the things that's really helped me this year is I've actually studied the tenets of mindfulness, and one of them is nonjudging. Like just just name what's there, and then it stops keeping you from something, so whether it's good or bad. I also would just one tip, if that went too fast for you, or if it was like too fast for you to follow, you can listen to this in replay at half speed. So think about doing that today.

Jim Collison 18:41

Yeah, or pause -- either one of those. With that, we'll remind everyone to take full advantages of all the resources we have available at the Gallup Strengths Center, just That'll be changing here on September 20 to our Gallup Access platform, you can access that through or Either way will get you in there. Lots of resources going to be available for you after our September 20 kind of a launch on that platform. Excited to kind of have one less platform out there for folks to get confused around. You can also get access to our Coaches Blog, and that is moving as well. For today, Lots of information out there; post-September 20 will be at So we're pretty excited about relaunching a lot of that content and some upgrades to the content as well. If you're interesting -- interested in becoming a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach, you can see a list of all the courses that lead to that, as well as some other dynamite courses you might want to consider taking. They're available on our courses page: If you want to join us live, and why wouldn't you, many of the -- many great people are out there today. Doesn't make you great to be here, but many great people are out there.

Maika Leibbrandt 19:46

It doesn't hurt.

Jim Collison 19:48

It does kind of help. I'm not gonna lie. If you want to follow a list of all our programs as we do them live, just head out to My buddy Mark actually does all the transcripts for the shows now. So there's complete transcripts out there, and he corrects all these website addresses. So if you're like, What did he say? Head out to our show notes as well, and those are available at the very bottom. Join us in our Facebook group. If you want to head out to It's a little long one; you might want a link for that, but we'd love to have you in our Facebook page. Want to thank you for joining us today. And with that, we'll say Goodbye, everybody.

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