What is Empathy?

Empathy is mentioned a lot these days but what exactly is empathy?  Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, that is, the capacity to place oneself in another’s position. (wikipedia).  The idea is that if you can imagine yourself in another persons shoes, you are better able to understand what the other person wants to communicate rather than what you want to understand.

Expressing Empathy

EmpathyEmpathy is referenced a lot in active listening skills.  For example, when on a customer call, if you able to just listen to the caller, you will likely interpret the message being communicated in the way the caller intended.  If you have listened well, you will be better able to demonstrate empathy by validating the callers feelings and empathize with them regarding the issue at hand.

If your customer is upset, show you are listening by expressing empathy.    This sends a positive message that shows you’re listening to them and that you are relating to what they’re saying.  Try to listen to the emotion in your caller’s voice then adjust your own tone of voice accordingly by demonstrating empathy and interest in what the caller is saying.  Make sure you come across as sincere and that you are genuinely sorry for the situation your customer finds themselves in. Simply saying “I’m sorry” or “I understand” will go a long way in helping calm down your customer.  Here are some examples.

“I understand how you feel. If I’d waited all morning, I’d be upset too.”

“I’m sorry to hear you’ve been having difficulties.  I’d be happy to take your order.”

“I understand how you are feeling right now. I will get this resolved as soon as possible.”

Listening is one of the most important soft skills you can develop, no matter what job you do so knowing how to be empathetic towards your customers, co-workers and clients will go a long way towards improving your listening skills. Displaying empathy doesn’t always come naturally for a lot of people but like any skill, it can be learned and the more you practice, the more intuitive it eventually becomes.

How well you listen will have a major impact on your job effectiveness and ability to do your job. If you develop good listening skills, you will be able to solve problems you encounter more effectively.

To learn more about listening skills and other valuable soft skills, take the course on telephone etiquette and customer service skills offered on officeskills.org.  This course is hosted in the Office Skills Collaborative Online Classroom. Concepts are reinforced through-out the module and worksheets are available for students to practice their skills. Students learn at their own pace and when it is convenient for them with our Anytime, Anywhere policy. Students have up to six months to complete the course.

For more information and to register for the course, visit the course page here https://officeskills.org/telephone-etiquette-training.html.

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