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This One Thing Can Make or Break Your Career

The Power of Empathy

Why is empathy such an integral part of a business?  There are many reasons.
It can make a difference during the client negotiation…
It can help you with your marketing – your avatar development…
It flavors your actual business goals and mission…
and contributes to better results.
For all these reasons, it’s valuable for business owners to deepen their understanding of empathy and think about its role in your business.

What’s the Difference Between Empathy and Sympathy?

Sympathy and Empathy are two different concepts, even though the words are often used interchangeably.
When you sympathize with someone, you wish things were better for them, but you don’t really share their experience or feelings.

Empathy allows you to recognize and share a person’s underlying emotions. You can imagine yourself as another person, with a connection to the feelings they have.

You might feel sympathy for Fred because his grandfather just passed away, and that’s a sad occasion. But when Susan loses her mother, your feelings will lean more towards empathy because you lost your mother last year.

Sometimes empathy and sympathy work together, and often one can lead to the other. Still, it’s important to remember, that’s not always the case.

Where Do We See Opportunities to Use Empathy in Our Business?

When you’re negotiating with a client, you’ll have a distinct advantage if you can know, understand, and feel the same things they are feeling. Empathy allows you to anticipate their objections and understand what your prospective client is wondering about or perceiving as a barrier.

As you develop the avatar for your marketing campaigns, empathy is an excellent tool for understanding precisely who the person you are marketing to is. If you can experience and share the same concerns they do, you are way ahead of the game.

As you move on to developing your business relationship and doing business with a client, pay attention to the empathy you feel towards their avatar. You now have intimate knowledge and understanding of their prospect. This will help you to speak clearly and directly to your target audience in a conversational tone and make the right appeal to their emotions.

Can You Learn Empathy?

Here we jump into some controversy. Some people feel empathy is a trait you either possess or lack. Sometimes you see companies offering empathy training. They show employees how to connect on common ground and use empathetic body language. They may practice exercises, such as “say this, not that.”

These efforts may increase awareness and cause someone to evaluate their skills. A course may teach them to appear more empathetic but faking it will not be of much value.

For example, someone faking empathy may notice your t-shirt and assume you both like the same sports team. Or they might remark that someone they know has kids the same age as yours. Anyone can acquire the habit of smiling and nodding their head to show agreement. BUT… these are signs of empathy. This is not empathy itself.

All these actions are productive, but they fall short of the main point.

Empathy Requires Genuine Intent

You might be asking yourself what genuine intent means. Empathy is not pretending to feel what another person is feeling. It’s not giving someone the impression you understand and care.

Remember, empathy is a feeling… an understanding. Genuine intent means you actually do understand, care, and share emotions with another person. If you think about it, this is one of the best arguments for deciding whether to do business with someone.

Talking about something you’ve experienced and can help others with will naturally come in your marketing efforts. Talking about something you have no knowledge or interest in will become evident to the potential client.

How Do You Improve Your Empathy Skills?

The secret weapon you can use to increase your understanding and connection with others comes from one activity – listening.

I’m not talking about general listening. You have to listen for understanding. Most of us listen to respond. Once we understand what the other person is talking about, we stop hearing and start formulating our reply. Don’t do that—practice listening to what someone says while focusing on the entire message.

Then, use a pause to think about what you just heard. Repeat what you heard back to the person for clarification if it’s appropriate. You can use the introductory phrase “Did you say…?”  or “So, what you’re saying is…” Then respond. It’s okay to pause and think. But… you have to listen first.

Get Better at Listening if You Want to Nurture Empathy

Aside from remembering to pause before answering, there other ways to sharpen your empathy skills.

One thing you can do is to talk to someone with whom you disagree. These days, it’s not hard to find this person. Have a conversation with them and LISTEN. Don’t argue or interject anything.

People love to talk about themselves and their viewpoints, so getting them to won’t be hard. Challenge yourself not to respond with your own opinion. Process what they say and work towards understanding what they’re saying. Accept it’s okay to understand, even if you disagree.

You might feel uncomfortable with this exercise and feel it’s too intense. In that case, start slowly by researching and writing about the other side of an argument that’s important to you. Try to lobby for the side you’re against. This might be a safer way to get inside the emotions of a viewpoint other than your own.

Improve Your Empathy… Improve Your Life

Once you start nurturing empathy within yourself, you may notice it not only improves your business mindset. It may improve your overall attitude as well.

It’s okay to give yourself an emotional workout from time to time, and feeling a connection with others has advantages outside the business world.

I challenge you to take one or two things from what you’ve read today and to give them a try.