Developing Empathy To Support Customers

How many times have you heard about the value of empathy in customer interactions? Probably a lot. And it’s good advice.

Empathy is the ability to sense other people’s emotions and to imagine what they may be thinking and feeling. Some people are naturally more empathetic than others, but researchers at Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkley suggest three ways that anyone can become more empathetic:

  • Practice active listening. Active listening involves approaching a conversation with a genuine desire to understand the other person’s feelings and perspective, without judgment or defensiveness.
  • Share in other people’s joy. Empathy is not just about commiserating; it can also be experienced in response to positive emotions like happiness and pride. Research suggests that empathy for positive events — such as expressing enthusiasm when someone shares good news — can be just as important for building personal and professional relationships as empathy for negative events.
  • Read fiction. Reading a great work of literature — or watching a film or play — allows us to temporarily step out of our own lives and fully immerse ourselves in another person’s experience. In fact, research suggests that fiction readers are better attuned to the social and emotional lives of others.

More practical tips for service professionals appear in the June issue of Customer Communicator newsletter.

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