By J.J. Peller
Who is the most interesting person you know?
You’re likely running images of dozens of different faces through your mind. Maybe you’re thinking of some celebrities or famous entrepreneurs or world leaders. But the one person who you might not have considered who is actually the most interesting person you know is the person you see every day when you look into the mirror.
That’s right, you are the most interesting person to yourself. Likewise, everyone is most interested in themselves. Why should this matter to you?
If you’re in the people business, then you must master your ability to interact with other people. To successfully interact with other people, you must understand how humans think, feel and behave.
In this article, I’ll teach you about the cornerstone strategy that will uphold every other human relations skill that you possess: empathy. Don’t believe me? A quick Google search will prove that troves of business outlets are talking about this topic.
What Is Empathy?
Merriam-Webster defines empathy this way: the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.
Let’s boil this down to a much simpler statement: Empathy is about intentionally working to understand how another human is feeling at any moment. Since every individual you work with or want to work with is their own most interesting person, you must use empathy to better understand them and their worldview.
People deeply desire to feel seen and heard. And deploying empathy into relationship development will help you to influence other people to feel seen and heard. If you can make someone feel seen, heard, and understood, you’ll have a new friend. Once someone is a friend, they’re well on their way to becoming a client or center of influence.
Why Is Empathy Important?
To quote Theodore Roosevelt: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” This maxim has been promulgated throughout the years. But why has it become such a truism? Think about it this way: If you don’t genuinely feel and believe someone cares about your well-being and success, will you fully welcome their advice and guidance? Likely not.
If you want to be positioned to provide someone advice and guidance based on your knowledge and expertise, you must help them to truly feel and believe that you care about their wellbeing and success.
Three Keys To Empathy
1. Be fully present
Don’t be thinking about the call you’re waiting for. Don’t glance around to see who else might walk by that you should talk with. Don’t think about everything else happening around you. Be in the moment.
I agree, this is much easier said than done. Still, like any skill, it can be developed with intentional practice. If you don’t feel you can be fully focused on the person you’re in conversation with, then politely inform them that you want to catch up sometime soon when you can be fully present. The person will likely respect and appreciate your genuine desire to invest time with them when you can be fully present with them.
2. Listen for everything
Too often, we listen only for the things that we want to hear and respond to. Unfortunately, this kind of biased listening prevents us from hearing everything that the other person is communicating.
Keep in mind that people say more than the words that come out of their mouths. We “speak” with our facial expressions, our body language, our tonality and our energy. Additionally, we often communicate as much by what we don’t say as by what we do say. If you can attune yourself to the person you’re being present within a dialogue, you can receive more of the message. If you can receive more of the message, you can be more empathetic.
For a moment, think back to the definition of empathy. If you’re aware of someone else’s thoughts and feelings – even when they don’t explicitly communicate those thoughts and feelings you can be more empathetic. Using this skill, you’re helping that person to feel seen, heard and understood.
3. Acknowledge what you hear
What do you do once you’ve been present with the person and listened for everything they communicate? Acknowledge what you hear. Tell the other person what you’re hearing them say.
As an example, if I go on an entire monologue about several of the different projects I’m working on, you might say something like, “It sounds like you have many different things going on in your life right now.” Simply showing that you’re listening by making a general reflection statement like this can go a long way in building rapport.
This third step is about demonstrating empathy – helping the other person truly see and feel your empathy in an explicit way.
People will feel your empathy if you’re fully present and proactively listening. Acknowledging what you hear, too, will take your empathy to a higher level.
Your Next Step: Practice Empathy
Make this a priority in the next conversation you have. By practicing and developing your empathy skills, you’ll build rapport and attract more people who want to work with you.
About the Author
J.J. Peller is an Executive Business Coach with Carson Coaching. He is an Associate Certified Coach through the International Coaching Federation. J.J. offers services to help financial advisors unleash their full potential and accelerate growth and success.
The information included herein is for informational purposes and is intended for use by advisors only,
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