Empathy is about standing in someone else’s shoes, feeling with his or her heart, seeing with his or her eyes. Not only is empathy hard to outsource and automate, but it makes the world a better place.
Daniel H. Pink
We left off talking about the power of Relating and that it is the potent combination of Building Rapport and Demonstrating Empathy. Most of us understand how to build rapport. We converse, we make observations, we ask questions…all to reveal what we have in common with our prospects.
Rapport says, “You and I are connected through commonality”.
Empathy is harder to establish than rapport but is much more powerful. It reaches past affinities and touches the part of the human experience that removes fear, doubt, embarrassment and vulnerabilities. Empathy says,
“I not only understand…I feel.”
“A prerequisite to empathy is simply paying attention to the person in pain.” Daniel Goleman
A few years ago, I was on a home visit with a couple whose native language was French. They were doing a pretty good job with English (as I would have done a horrible job with French!), but it was hard to understand them, let alone connect with them.
Rapport was not on the agenda. Simply getting an understanding about their situation was priority #1. I had even contemplated calling the translator line so that I did not make a mistake on such an important matter as their healthcare or seeing if there was another agent that could make the call.
The wife gave me a stack of physician business cards to review against her plan options – at least I could read! One doctor was an Oncologist. That trumped all the other doctors in the stack. I asked her how long she had been seeing that doctor.
“I just started. I have had three treatments.”
The strength and peace in her voice reminded me of my mother when her radiation treatments began. As I put on my reading glasses (yes, I said reading glasses), I found myself fighting back tears.
I lost that fight.
“I think we all have empathy. We may not have enough courage to display it.” Maya Angelou
I quickly got myself together as she handed me a tissue. I told them that it would take some research, review and physician outreach for me to be able to help them make the right decision. She then said the words that anyone in a real position to help another person needs to hear.
“We trust you”
I never said why I shed a tear and they did not ask. Empathy doesn’t always need discussion, but it has tremendous healing properties. That is why we tell people (sometimes even strangers) what we are going through. It is not because, “misery loves company” but because there is a powerful transfer of positive energy when people connect on an emotional level.
Building Rapport is a purposeful, pragmatic and objective discovery of where our lives intersect. Empathy is a seemingly random and subjective discovery of where our lives connect.
No, not every sale requires this level of empathy (or in come cases, any) and I do not suggest crying to get a sale…that won’t play well in a boardroom of executives! But whether you are at the kitchen table or conference table, I do believe the sales mantra applies:
“They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Theodore Roosevelt
Rapport Reveals…Empathy Heals!