How to Sharpen Your Instinct for Empathy

It’s helpful to trace and understand the origin of the two words.   For a more elaborate explanation, read this article, empathy vs sympathy.

I’ll summarize here.

Empathy was brought into the English language from the German word Both are acts of feeling.  With sympathy, you feel FOR the person.  You may or may not fully understand their predicament, situation, problem or feelings.

With sympathy, you feel sorry for the person.  With empathy, you truly understand the sorrow, from their perspective and the world they endure as a result.

Empathy takes more work. It requires more imagination in that in order to empathize with a person, you must attempt to understand their thoughts: walk in their moccasins, so to speak. Empathy helps you identify with and feel closer to the other person.

While sympathy is also a tender feeling, it keeps you at a distance and sometimes even a bit above the person. Your perspective reflects that the person is somehow not only less fortunate than you but also ‘less than’ you, at least at the moment. The ‘less than’ may an assessment of their (perhaps temporary) competence or power level.

The most frequent expression of sympathy is felt when you hear that a person you know has lost someone close to them to death.  Feeling sympathy is almost an immediate reaction on our part.  Empathy would step in if you were very close to the survivor and understood, to a strong degree what the impact of that loss actually meant to them.  it might also kick in if you’ve lost someone
yourself and can actually experience that feeling of grief.

So, how does one bring empathy into existence when there is no tragedy to demand its emergence?

Here are three ways to sharpen your instinct for empathy.

1. Practice recognizing the signs that you’re about to distance yourself and dismiss the other person.
Empathy is an exercise in self-awareness and flexibility.  When you sense an arising experience of some negative emotion (disgust, sadness, anger, resentment), know that the first signal is your OWN emotion.  Once you know it’s YOUR reaction you’re trying to tame (rather than the other person’s), you’ll have more success in flexing and responding.

2. Imagine the other person’s life and try to feel what they are currently feeling.
Take into consideration not only their current life, but years past that have formed their perspective and outlook on life.  Be curious about how they have come to adopt their opinions. Ask open-ended questions that will help shine a light on their internal thoughts and help you understand them.

3. Legitimize their feelings
Even if you struggle to understand the feelings or opinions yourself, acknowledge that the perspective is a legitimate one for the person holding it. When you tell them you could see how they came to believe what they believe, it will be easier to have a meaningful dialog.  The natural tendency is to disagree with them; to dismiss them as a nut-case.  It’s hard to solve problems when you each think your ‘adversary’ is a lunatic.  Someone has to have some collaborative energy.  It might as well be you.

As Michael Jackson said, “I’m starting with the man in the mirror. I’m asking him to change his ways.” If you’re always looking for someone else to change their ways, they won’t. If you keep denying their opinion, they’ll hold on to it that much stronger.  Meet them where they are.  That’s how you find common ground.

How to Distinguish Yourself in a Crowded Marketplace So You Win More Sales

If you want your business to grow, it’s critical that you set yourself apart from the competition. Many companies struggle with that idea but it’s not too difficult if you know the steps you must take.

If you fail at distinguishing yourself, you could end up having lots of conversations with prospects that end up going nowhere.  You’ll waste money on advertising that won’t get noticed and time on networking that doesn’t lead to presentations and therefore sales.

Let’s face it, unless you have a product or service that is truly unique, other entries in your industry will make the same client claims that you make.  And your prospects will either hire the person they like the best or the one who gives them the cheapest price.

So what’s a Biz Dev person to do?

Here are the 5 MUST DOs that will allow you to eradicate the competition and win more sales.

1. Define how you exceed market expectations
Everyone says they deliver exceptional customer service. That won’t distinguish you. Saying you focus on the customer is a big yawner as well.  If you’re a printer, on-time delivery is an expectation every client has.  If you’re able to design and print faster than anyone else, simplify the review/approval process, customize publications at a cost-effective price or deliver products to worldwide locations in a snap, you might have an edge.

2. Assess your past engagements
Make a list of your biggest success stories.  Notice what they had in common.  Were they all from particular or related industries? Did you sell or service them in a similar fashion? What made them so successful?

3. Identify your process
Determine what it is that you do with each of your clients.  Even if you think there isn’t a process you follow, I challenge you to discover it.  It’s there.  What’s the first thing you do?  Is it an assessment?  Do you ask them a series of questions followed by some recommendation(s)?  Do you have them do certain things?  You may have a number of processes you do under different circumstances.

4. Name It & Claim It
Once you’ve defined the steps you take, claim them and NAME them.  Acronyms are great but not necessary. For example, the steps I take clients through who are looking for more balance and joy in their life is RENEW.  Release, Elect, Nurture, Eject and Win.  While there are a lot of coaches who help people gain a stronger feeling of control over and balance in their lives, how many have a SYSTEM like the RENEW System?

5.  Tell your hero’s story
Share with your prospects and clients how you got where you are today.  Perhaps it’s the story of how you developed the system or how you grew up and led you to the life you have.  Your story is your own.  No one else can tell your story.  That makes your story a key ingredient in distinguishing yourself and your business from the rest of the world

I heard a marketing consultant/speaker share what it was like growing up the ‘baby’ in a family of 8 children.  His slogan was “Being heard above the noise”.  He tells his audience what it took for him to get heard above the noise of his children and helps business owners come up with their own stories so they can get heard above the noise.

You have everything you need to set yourself apart. You just need to look at who you are, how you got where you are, what you do that’s unique for your clients and the results you help them produce. This will distinguish you and help you win more sales.