Gaining empathy is the first step to controlling difficult or challenging communications with another person. Without empathy you won’t be able to move forward in the conversation.
Empathy is best described as seeing the situation through the other person’s eyes, as if you were standing in their shoes. Placing yourself in their position will assist you in identifying the reason for their emotional behaviour.
Empathy is not sympathy, the latter could be misinterpreted as pity. Empathy is about understanding the other person’s thoughts and feelings, an identification of their circumstances.
By reflecting back what the person has said to you using your own words, including use of the important words that they spoke in their sentences, will assist you to gain empathy.
Here are some other quick tips to gain empathy;
- If you are talking to the person face-to-face then hold eye contact for around 60% of the time. Be careful not to hold direct eye contact for too long with overly aggressive people as they will take it as a sign you are looking for a confrontation.
- Lean forward slightly to show an interest if seated, but not too far forward to make it look condescending.
- Mirror some of their body language when the person has calmed. Mirror body language when someone is aggressive has the same effect as glaring at them.
- Use their name early in the conversation to show that you are listening and you are an actual person. Plus, we all like to hear our own name being said by others.
- Always be polite no matter how rude the other person may be. Words such as “please” and “thank you” will gain you important brownie points when talking with those from the baby boomer generation.
- Respect their point of view. You may disagree but know that your view may not be right.
- Ask for their permission if you need to go away and do something. This makes the person feel important.
- Use the word “important” when appropriate. This pays to their ego.
Gaining empathy will lead to establishing a rapport provided you continue to say the right thing.