Understanding Empathy

Today I'm missing my brother. And thinking about empathy.

The truck came to his place today, to carry off his remaining household furnishings to Housing First, an organization that helps outfit apartments for people who are recovering from homelessness. It makes me happy that his things can be used in this way, but I'm also so sad because this step somehow feels so final. Because it is, right? Final, I mean. He doesn't need these things anymore, and someone else does. Life keeps moving on, without him, and with or without us. So we keep putting one step in front of the other; next step, the sale of his home, later this month. Sigh.

So that has me reflecting on this time last year, when he asked me to help him with his presentation; here's what he had to say about the U in gumption:

It's important to understand the client's point of view, walk a mile in their shoes. Put on your client hat and imagine how they think. What keeps them up at night? What makes them tick? How are they outside of work? What's all involved in their buying process? Develop that rapport early and it will benefit you greatly. My friend Andy says that the best asset you can have in sales is sincerity ... and once you learn to fake that ... but seriously, use empathy, stop and listen, quit interrupting. Look at this graph and you'll come to realize that somewhere there's a very small sweet spot in the middle of it all called understanding, and our role is to find it. Transactional sellers will never find it, relational sellers might find it, and empathetic, consultative sellers make it their duty to root it out and discover it, not for the sake of exploitation, but for the sake of good business really. And connections and relationships, too.

I love reading through his thoughts on empathy.
I laughed at his attempt at stirring in some humor, and
I'm struck by how sales can so poignantly parallel life.

In this book I'm reading, Jerry D. Clark calls it getting gently curious.

I like that.
So I'll say it again: 
Empathy is about becoming gently curious.

That's kind of like what Mipps was saying.
Understand the client's point of view.
Step into their shoes.
Imagine how they think.

Get curious about what they might like, want or need.

Treat them the way they want to be treated.

Here's a slide from a chat I led the other night:

It's a variation on the Golden Rule that I find fun to contemplate, because how would you effectively do that without getting curious?

And sometimes that means flat out asking them:

Tell me more.
What I'm hearing you say is ... 
What's the hardest part right now?
How do you like to be comforted?

And Jerry's questions from Blind Spots:

What else can you tell me about this?
I'm confused; can you elaborate?
What do you need from me?
What is not being said that needs to be said?

And then listening to understand rather than to respond.

Gentle curiosity.
Wholehearted understanding.
Fierce compassion.
Contagious kindness.

I feel like every day brings a new opportunity
to sharpen my understanding of that glorious virtue:

What helps you get better at understanding empathy?

Leave your reflections in the comments section,
then check out Blind Spots by my friend Jerry D. Clark
and find out what you didn't know you didn't know
about yourself and potential blind spots in your relationships.

I'll save you a spot at the pool in case
 you want to come by and reflect with me.

1 comment

  1. Wow! I just came across this and it really hit home in so many different ways. Thank you for sharing this!


I really enjoy hearing from my readers; thanks for sharing your reflections with us!