Wednesday, 6 August 2008

The Power of Empathy

When we truly empathise with someone, they feel and experience it in a very positive way. Empathy is an extremely powerful tool to use in order to connect with someone. When a person feels that we are genuinely empathising with them, they respond with more openness. They become more amenable. Furthermore, they begin to trust us. As you know, you can’t buy trust… however, with empathy you can enable it to emerge.

So, how does one do empathy? To start with, you make a conscious decision that you want to empathise. You might say, why would I want to do that? Well, maybe there’s someone in your life that’s aloof, or cold-acting. And for business reasons you believe having a better relationship with them is likely to be helpful to you. Empathy helps us to engage and build rapport with anyone. Maybe there's someone you know who's having a tough time at home. Taking the time to ask them how they are doing in a caring, genuinely interested way, will enable them to feel better. Empathy creates a win-win. We feel better about ourselves when we empathise, as does the person with whom we empathise.

Rather than set out the ‘steps to empathy’, I thought I’d talk about how it feels to be on the receiving end of empathy. For the most part it feels considerate, kind, thoughtful and generous. It’s as if the empathiser is thinking about us more than themselves. In addition, it feels as though they genuinely care about our well-being. Okay, you might say, I can’t do that with everyone. No, of course you can’t. What you can do is to start by choosing someone whom you feel might benefit from a dose of empathy. Perhaps somebody you know who's received some bad news and is feeling low and/or dejected.

The first thing to do is consider how you might feel if you were in their position.
Say for instance, someone you know has been told the job they were hankering after has been given to somebody else. And the reason they didn’t get the job was because they failed the final interview. And the reason they failed was because just before the interview, they received some very bad news about a close family member. This news, 'threw' them, therefore, they were not able to give their best shot at this crucial time. Now, put yourself in their place. What might you want to experience in terms of empathy from someone who knew the full story? Consider what you would like to hear them say, what you'd like to feel if you were in a position such as the interviewee mentioned. Write those words down, also, write down the feelings you'd like to accompany the words. Then, the next time somebody you think is worthy of empathy comes your way, remember those words and feelings and pass them on to that person.

1 comment:

Richard White said...

Great article

One thing with empathy is that if you were the other person then you would do and think the same way. I do not think that empathy is something you do but rather something you feel. You can, however, do things to help you feel empathy.

One way I get people to experience empathy on my business development workshops is to get attendees to role play their prospects and get someone else to ask them about their problems. Its not until you see the world through another person's eyes and feel the pain (or pleasure) that you really understand where they are coming from.

Another technique is storytelling. I get people to tell me a story about an incident and then tell the story from the perspective of the other party. Again it forces one to get out of one's own world and into the other person's world.

Best wishes

Richard White
The Accidental Salesman®