Do know that many of the business honchos like Vijay Mallya and Subrata Roy who are on the run or facing trials for fraud and embezzlement are living examples of people with a very high level of empathy?
Now that I have got your attention, let me explain how.
The reason that these businessmen were able to build empires worth billions was because they empathised deeply with the people of India, especially the middle class, understanding their deep desires, aspirations and ambitions and then provided them with the services and products which fit the bill. Be it micro-financing schemes, reasonably priced premium alcoholic beverage or a low-cost luxury airline. Things went southwards when these leaders became detached and cut their connection with common people and stopped looking at the reality on the ground. They stopped empathizing with people and situations.
In a busy and complex world, empathy is the glue that holds relationships together. It helps in centring on what matters: connections. Whether you want to connect with your users, customers, partners or loved ones, you need to learn the art of empathy.
Empathy is defined as the ability to detect other’s emotions and understand their perspective. When your users or customers feel accepted and validated, it builds trust.
You’re probably familiar with the Golden Rule: treat your customers the way you want to be treated. But empathy relies on the Platinum Rule: treat your customers the way they want—and need—to be treated. This approach puts the focus on understanding what your customer’s need from you instead of what you think they need.
Here are seven habits which will help you master the platinum rule for your customers:
Be fully PRESENT with them
Empathetic people have a way of making you feel like you are the only one in the room.
When they interact with someone, they give that person the gift of their full attention and respect, which is rare in today’s hyper-distracted world.
Master the art of LISTENING
To truly support someone, you must first understand that person. Empathetic people take the time to understand their counterpart’s priorities, preferences, and motivations. This requires listening non-judgmentally and leaving your assumptions at the door. Empathetic people use active listening skills to gain insight, including:
- Reflecting: “What I’m hearing you say is…” or “It sounds to me like…”
- Affirming: Smiling, nodding, or brief verbal affirmations like “I see” and “mm-hmm”
- Encouraging: “And then?”
Tune into NONVERBAL communication
Communication runs deeper than words alone. If you notice someone tensing up, pulling away, or suddenly dodging eye contact, those are important clues that you can use empathy to reach out.
Rather than ignoring the emotion gently — and with kindness — ask them to describe what’s happening for them. This gives people the freedom to share their feelings openly, knowing they won’t be judged or criticized. Letting emotions flow freely can be a gateway to productive problem-solving.
To be helpful, we often jump in to finish people’s sentences, offer advice, or interrupt.
Empathetic people know how powerful silence can be. They don’t interrupt or talk over other people.
They think before they speak.
Replace advising with asking QUESTIONS
Instead of offering their opinion, empathetic people ask questions to better understand another person’s perspective, like:
- How do you feel about it?
- Can you tell me more?
- What do you mean?
- What would be helpful?
- What do you make of it?
Speak in terms of “WE,” not “me.”
Empathetic leaders shift to talking about how they’ll tackle challenges as a team — speaking in terms of “we” and “us” — so other people feel empowered and supported.
Research shows changing your language is a step toward adopting an empathic attitude. People who use more second-person pronouns are better at interpreting others’ thoughts, feelings, and behaviors – the essence of empathy.
When you want to genuinely connect with someone, create a bond by talking about your shared goals (i.e., “Let’s talk about what we’re going to do next to solve this,” “We’ll get through this”).
Imagine other’s POINT OF VIEW
Empathetic people practice a skill called “perspective-taking.” In other words, they step into other people’s shoes to imagine what they might be facing. Do this exercise yourself by approaching another person’s point of view with a beginner’s mindset. Especially when you’re dealing with a difficult person, it’s important to hear them with an intent to understand. That is, give people the benefit of the doubt that they are coming from a respectful place, not a malicious one. This mindset shift can do wonders for your mood and ensure you stay in an empathic state.
Even if you have moments where you’re less empathetic than you’d like, following these highly empathic habits can help you keep what’s important at the forefront: connection.
I am sure they are more than 7 habits that many people practice. Do you know of any other habits? Would love to hear from you.