One of the most effective ways to develop a true relationship and understanding of another person is to have the ability to feel empathy. Empathy is not the same as sympathy; it is a much more authentic feeling.
Sympathy is the ability to see things from your perspective and understand how you feel about the situation. Empathy is the ability to put aside your feelings or beliefs about something and understand it from another person’s perspective. Sympathy is not bad, but it assumes that everyone experiences a situation, interaction, or event the same way you do. Empathy recognizes that everyone involved may have a different perspective based on who they are and why they may have these different perceptions and feelings.
To go one step further, sympathy is the ability to have a shared feeling, while empathy allows you to understand feelings that may not be familiar or shared. It is, at its most basic level, the understanding you would get if you could walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.
The Benefit of Empathy in Sales and Business
The key ingredient to building relationships is for both people to feel heard and valued. This is true in personal relationships as well as in business interactions. The more you feel the other person “gets” you, the more you are willing to trust, provide information, and share your thoughts and concerns with the other.
Empathy is one of the components of emotional intelligence. Like all aspects of emotional intelligence, empathy can be consciously developed. This doesn’t mean you have to try to be someone else or to even agree with them; it simply means you understand them at a deeper level.
One of the best ways to build empathy is to be willing to share your own thoughts and to be more vulnerable. This can be simply sharing your “human side” in a discussion and being open to listening to their answer to understand rather than to argue or try to convince.
Another way to open up and add empathy is to look for ways to be of assistance to coworkers, clients, and colleagues. When someone expresses frustration or a challenge, don’t immediately try to offer a solution or move on to a more positive topic. Instead, respond authentically and just listen. Being a sounding board and honoring the other person’s experience and perspective is a very empowering and supportive step to take.
It is not always easy to be empathetic in the world of business. However, creating authentic connections with customers is the single most effective way to build long-lasting relationships.