It does not matter how long you are in the field of sales or consulting, empathy is the one trait – or I should say skill, that makes the difference between success or failure. This article is not about the importance of empathy. If you don’t know that I highly recommend you research what empathy is and how it influences people. For example, read Cialidini’s ‘Influence’ – it is a game changer in the field of persuasion.
There are several layers to the mastery of this skill, and not everybody utilizes or even knows of them. In this week’s post, I am going to give you some hints on how to become proficient at utilizing active listening and empathy skills.
1) Listen with your heart AND brain
This one is the most obvious aspect. Don’t just take in the words or the information. Get a sense of the other person’s emotions and state of mind. If you become good at this you can compare this to a feeling you have when listening to music: You know how a song will continue not by remembering but by sensing the direction the melody takes. You will be able to listen to people knowing not exactly what words, but what sentiment and what general contents (solutions vs. problems, concerns vs. anticipations, …) will come next.
2) Communicate expressively that you listen AND that you understand
This is one of the most often underutilized aspect. You want to convey that at the moment of listening, the person on the other side has your undivided attention. This is not a mere non-verbal exercise. You may nod your head, hold eye contact and give listening signals like “mhm”, but that is not enough. You want to purposefully express situations, examples, images, or metaphors that exactly conveys that bond and understanding. This may be difficult and takes some practice.
3) Immerse yourself in the other’s world view
It’s like a shock situation, you want to put yourself in; in fact, you want to take it all in and let it touch you. That’s how you remember more. Set you own mind, your own worries or discomforts – of any kind – aside. You want to forget that you were thirsty, tired, hungry, or don’t feel comfortable in these jeans. Instead, you want to take all the effort required to be present. Nobody said it was easy. It’s simple, but not easy. Practice makes perfrect.
4) Don’t be the one who speaks most
Let the other person be themselves. Let them be the force of nature and the energy stream of consciousness and allow it all. This may sound a little bit esoteric but what it really means is that you don’t judge. You hold your attention on them with no judgment. You perceive but you don’t react. If you react, you immediately categorize what the other person does in good or bad behavior or content. Of course, you don’t want to forget who you are completely and what your general purpose of intention of communicating is. However, empathy is the art of letting a customer become a client.
This is the art of listening well and connecting to another person. This is the art of learning to love your clients and to improve your service. The effort will be worth it.
Author: Marc Breetke, M.A., M.A.
MB Inspirations is your trusted advisor to increase business performance especially in sales and human resources. We consult, train and coach companies and individuals strategically, systematically, and sustainably in order to continuously and never-endingly improve productivity.
Marc Breetzke, M.A., M.A. is the founder of MB Inspirations and he works with businesses and organizations worldwide as a leading-edge business strategist, consultant and lecturer.
Florian Dietzel, B.A. most recently joined the MBI-Team as Junior Sales Consultant to assist our clients. Please don’t hesitate and send us your questions, comments, and feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.