Let’s talk about the E word

When he wrote the breakthrough book Emotional Intelligence in 1995, Daniel Goleman identified the five pillars of Emotional Intelligence, in this article we look at empathy and those things you can do to improve yours.

For leaders, having empathy is critical to managing a successful team or organisation.

The reasons are plentiful but primarily because leaders with empathy have the ability to put themselves in someone else’s situation.

They help develop the individuals on their team, challenge those who are acting unfairly, give constructive feedback, and listen to those who need it.

Likewise, if you are a selling agent and you want to earn the respect and loyalty of your customers, then show them you care by being empathic.

The key thing about empathy is that while most people know what it means – they rarely exercise it.

For example, it is not second nature for everyone to have a clue what to say in an awkward situation, or even simply to offer their condolences when they hear of someone’s sad news, in fact the opposite!

Many people are too nervous to acknowledge the topic for fear of making the other person uncomfortable (or more likely of making themselves feel awkward)!

Yet, within our intensely people-driven job functions, we are providing a personal service and it is simply common courtesy to acknowledge death, sickness, grief and trauma – this is basic etiquette.

Your capacity to see something from someone else’s perspective and be able to see things through someone else’s personal and belief systems will inspire you to show genuine empathy. Showing someone that you ‘get them’ matters.

“Emotional intelligence is super important when dealing with potential customers,” says Ben Major, Head of Sales at OpenAgent.

“A compelling product or sales pitch is usually not enough – customers want to buy from people who understand them and their needs. Emotional intelligence gives salespeople a better chance at understanding the customer and building trust and rapport with them.”

How can you improve your empathy?

  • Put yourself in someone else’s position
    It’s easy to support your own point of view but take the time to look at situations from other people’s perspective.
  • Respond to feelings
    If you have let a customer down by being late for an appointment, for whatever reason, and they accept your apology, you might still hear the disappointment in their voice.

    So, respond by addressing their feelings. Tell them you appreciate their acceptance and that you will put in and work extra hours and do whatever is necessary to make up the lost time.
  • Pay attention to body language
    Does the body language match what the person is saying. Do they cross their arms, nervously jerk their feet back and forth, or bite their lip?

    Body language tells a whole other story about how someone really feels about a situation. This gives you the opportunity to respond appropriately. Learning to read body language is a legitimate asset in leadership.

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Sue Ostler

Sue Ostler has authored 5 non-fiction books and countless articles designed to mentor, motivate, and inspire clients. In her day job she is a national agency Account Manager at OpenAgent.