Donald Fagen of Steely Dan
I don’t mean the rain and snow weather, I’m talking about the emotional weather inside us.
This emotional weather – moods, feelings, and attitudes — plays a central role in empathizing with others, and empathy is a critical aspect of all relationships, business and social.
Empathy involves both cognitive and emotional attunement with others. We have to experientially understand what others are feeling. We all have that ability (except for the rare sociopath or narcissist), but some people are more empathetic than others. Since the ability to read what others are feeling and communicate with them is a key hallmark for sales success, it behooves everyone to want to increase their empathy threshold.
Like any change we want to foster. that takes a little discipline and effort. But the payoff can be big. By practicing the activities below, we actually rewire the brain’s circuitry to make ourselves more attuned to what others are feeling and more potent communicators.
3 Ways To Boost Empathy
Read some good novels or short stories. Yeah, really. Literary fiction (where there’s depth to the characters as opposed to pulp fiction or crime novels, etc. which lean more towards 2-D portrayals and clichéd situations) opens the door to understanding all kinds of people in nuanced situations.
Engage with people you typically avoid. Even if you’re naturally outgoing and gregarious, it’s likely there are some folks you don’t engage much with at all. Maybe it’s the person who delivers the mail, or the guy who is next to you waiting for his car to be serviced. Or maybe it’s someone at a political rally, ballgame, or school committee meeting who clearly doesn’t see things like you do. That’s exactly the person you can open up to, put your biases aside and try to learn something about their perspective on things.
By getting in the habit of conversing with others in a more wholehearted way, we strengthen our empathy circuits. We can go beyond just talking about the weather and try to understand how it makes the other person feel.
Listen Openly and Let Yourself Feel Vulnerable. Engaging with others is a two-way street. You can’t just ask questions and smile politely. Drop your guard, and any persona or identity you typically assume (an executive, a manager, a parent, etc.) and meet people on neutral ground instead of your own turf. Being able to connect without hiding behind an identity that feels safe and protected lets us meet others in “no man’s land” where empathy can flow free and naturally.
Relationship selling depends on the power of empathy. Transactions are a one-night stand or a one-shot deal, but relationships are enduring. Mutually rewarding by nature, they’re springboards for other connections and affiliations. They lead to business referrals and cross-selling opportunities.
We should think of empathy as a key business skill. Not only does it mediate sales success, but it underpins all successful teamwork and leadership.