How ESTJs can Develop Empathy – And Why It’s Essential for their Success

Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on September 18, 2017
Category: ESTJ

ESTJs are take-charge, confident people who live in the concrete world of facts and rules. As traditionalists, they like to make sure that everything is running like clockwork and that standards, laws and values are upheld. As a result, they often move into leadership roles where their strongly held beliefs can be put into action.

These go-getters don’t usually have any difficulty expressing themselves, especially when they feel someone is out of line. Their honest and straightforward approach ensures their desires are communicated clearly so that the job gets done properly.

For many ESTJs, however, their focus on facts, rules and regulations leaves other people cold. They tend to forget about an individual’s emotional needs and can become demanding and critical in their attempts to reach their own high standards. They may dismiss the thoughts, feelings and opinions of their friends and colleagues without even considering them. Although they may be completely unaware of how uncaring or insensitive they sound to others, feelings still get hurt and relationships suffer.

ESTJs like to be in charge, but they need to remember that effective leadership isn’t just about enforcing the rules. One of the key skills good leaders need to succeed is empathy. While sympathy is the understanding of other people’s feelings and needs, empathy allows us to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and relate to their thoughts, emotions and experience as if they were our own.

Why Do We Need Empathy?

This study showed that empathy is positively related to job performance. Managers who show more empathy toward their staff are viewed as better performers by their bosses and employees with an empathetic boss perform better because they trust them. In another study, researchers found that empathy can enhance cooperation because it allows us to interpret others’ behavior better.

Researchers have also pointed out the following benefits of developing empathy:

  • It is critical to our survival because it requires the accurate perception, interpretation, and response to the emotional signals of others.
  • Empathy is a key building block for prosocial behavior, which is the actions people take that benefit others and society.
  • Empathy is important in the development of healthy relationships.
  • Higher levels of empathy are associated with increased conflict resolution.
  • Expressing empathy is often followed by a sense of social responsibility.

The absence of empathy can lead to destructive behaviors, like bullying or manipulation, and adversely affect relationships, so whether you’re looking to boost your emotional IQ or start developing your softer side from scratch, you and your relationships will benefit.

How To Show Empathy

Expressing empathy may not be one of the ESTJs’ strengths, but fortunately it is a skill that can be learned. Here are a few tips to help ESTJs develop their emotional intelligence and practice the kind of people skills that will take them to the top.

  1. Suspend judgement. While you may have difficulty understanding the importance of considering people’s feelings and views, you can think of listening and appreciating others’ thoughts as a way of gathering information. Try not to dismiss people’s ideas or emotions before giving them proper consideration and ask questions to make sure you understand their point of view. Remember, everyone has something to offer.
  2. Be flexible. When you’re faced with new ideas or ways of working, you may resist incorporating them into your own detailed and firmly held plans. But if you’re willing to create new plans or make adjustments and let go of some control, you will often come up with an even better solution and a more cooperative team. Be sure to recognize, acknowledge and show appreciation for people who have come up with good ideas. Not everyone thinks the same way you do, but embracing differences can lead to a more effective outcome.
  3. Practice active listening. Many ESTJs get so excited about their own ideas and plans, they often end up doing all the talking, dominating conversations and interrupting others. When you listen, however, you show others that you care about their feelings, you respect their ideas and you build trust. Active listening shifts your focus from your own thoughts to the other person’s, so you’re present and able to reflect the feelings and ideas expressed without judgement. You hear their concerns without trying to solve their problems. To practice active listening, try paraphrasing someone’s ideas back to them, ask for clarification on points you don’t understand, and offer to share a similar experience of your own. Click here for more tips on active listening.
  4. Look at the big picture. Try not to get too bogged down in facts and details. When presenting your ideas, share the main points and then give others a chance to respond and ask questions without focusing too much on every aspect of your plan.
  5. Slow down. It’s tempting for ESTJs to fill quiet space with more talking, but effective leaders take the time to stop, reflect and think before speaking. Try to speak slowly and calmly, without being condescending. Don’t demand an immediate response, but allow others the time to think as well. Try to build some time into your schedule for reflection and compassion so you can return with a considered response.

The ability to understand what others are experiencing and feeling is a skill that contributes to effective leadership, in part because it helps you to build and maintain relationships. Whether you’re working to succeed in your career or in your personal communications with others, ESTJs will find that a little empathy will help them to become the admired friends, valued colleagues and respected leaders they long to be.

Deborah Ward

Deborah Ward is a writer and an INFJ. She has a passion for writing articles, blog posts and books that inspire, motivate and encourage people to build self-confidence and live up to their potential. She has written two books on mindfulness, Overcoming Low Self-Esteem with Mindfulness and Overcoming Fear with Mindfulness. Her latest book, Sense and Sensitivity, is based on her Psychology Today blog of the same name. It's about highly sensitive people and is out now. Deborah lives in Hampshire, England, where she enjoys watching documentaries, running and taking long walks in the country, especially ones that finish at a cosy pub.

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About the Clinical Reviewer

Steven Melendy, PsyD., is a Clinical Psychologist who received his doctorate from The Wright Institute in Berkeley, California. He specializes in using evidence-based approaches in his work with individuals and groups. Steve has worked with diverse populations and in variety of a settings, from community clinics to SF General Hospital. He believes strongly in the importance of self-care, good friendships, and humor whenever possible.


Greg Wochlik says...

Note the date of this article. It's ahead of its time. (INTJ spotted it)

Mary INFJ (not verified) says...

Im INFJ and my boyfriend is ESTJ.. How can I get him to understand this?? :) I love him but I would also need empathy from him <3

Leah INFJ (not verified) says...

I feel ya friend, I have a crush on an ESTJ guy and we sometimes have problems with that too during coversation. I even think he's quite extreme on that regard, he said "people should take care of their own feelings, not the others", and I'm like, boy oh boy, that's impossible, I'll be caring about everyone's feelings no matter what you say.

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