What Is Empathy? Empathy is the capacity to recognise and understand the emotions of other people. It’s about putting yourself in another person’s shoes, understanding his/her perspective and reality. You’ve heard about this often enough during call center and customer service trainings where the trainers tell you to “put yourself in the customer’s shoes to better understand what’s going on in the customer’s heart and mind.”
You might think that empathy is spontaneous. It’s not. There’s a little science to it. What happens is …when you hear a compelling story or see a scene or a situation that hits your soft spot, our body releases Cortisol which helps us to concentrate on the subject matter. Simultaneously, the body also releases Oxytoxin. This is sometimes called the “Trust Hormone” or the “Bonding Hormone.”. It’s what makes us care about the subject matter and increases our empathy. Recent research which had men undergo an aerosol shot of Oxytoxin found that this group had exhibited emotional empathy in higher levels. All of us have these, but depending on genetics, our mood at the moment and how we relate to the other person, levels of our individual empathy varies.
Why Empathy Is Important In Businesses
The ability to connect with and relate to people, (in particular, prospects and regular customers of a business) is true empathy. It’s a force that can move the business forward because empathy makes you think beyond yourself and your own concerns. The minute you begin seeing and understanding that side of the business, you’ll realise there’s a lot to discover and appreciate. This inevitably leads tocreativity and innovation and happy customers.
To start applying empathy at the workplace more effectively, especially among employees who interact with customers, you as a manager might want to have them consider the following guides:
- Get rid of your own perspective. Instead look at things from the other person’s viewpoint. As soon as you do this, you’ll get to realize these guys aren’t being wicked or unkind or difficult and unreasonable. They’re just responding to the situation with the information they’ve got. This happens all the time with customer complaints.
- Listen and listen well. Listen with your ears (what is the other person saying? what kind of tone is he using?) Listen with your instincts (Is he communicating all the important issues? Is there something he’s not telling you?). Listen with your heart (how do you think he/she feels?).
- Acknowledge the other person’s perspective. Once you recognize why the other person believes what she believes, then acknowledge it. This doesn’t equate to you agreeing but it’s an acceptance of other peoples opinions and they may have solid reasons to have those opinions.
- Be flexible. When interacting with your company’s customers, be prepared to change directions as the other person’s thoughts and feelings might also change.
Getting yourself and your team to develop an empathy approach at the workplace may just be the most relevant decision you can make to improving your business. When you start understanding others, they’d want to understand you too and that’s how effective collaborative work goes.