The Power of Empathy

This very short video from RSA does an great job of introducing the concept of empathy and how it is distinct from sympathy.

In a very light and efficient manner, Brene Brown explains the 4 qualities of empathy, which are:

1. Perspective taking
2. Staying out of judgement
3. Recognising emotion in other people
4. Communicating emotion.

If only more people in customer service and sales roles would focus real energy on leveraging the power of empathy.

An emotional approach in customer service

Brown makes a most excellent point when she says that when we encounter very difficult conversations with others that are hurting, we struggle so much to find an appropriate response.

But the truth is, “rarely can a response make something better – what makes something better, is connection.”

We teach a highly emotional approach for working with prospects and customers.
We ask our trainees to take a risk and put their true selves out there.

We want them to be authentic; like so many complex human emotions, we know real authenticity when we see it.

One thing people find very difficult in our training courses is role play.

They wonder, “If someone I was buying from asked me the questions you teach, would I really feel compelled to answer?”

Yet prospects do answer, and we have hours and hours of recorded calls to prove it.

Slow down and pay attention

The thing is, people are often in states of distress when they call us for help with their problems. And, it’s very hard for many of us to take on the perspective of others in distress.

The other day during training, one of the participants was listening to herself on a recorded call and cringing every time she would respond to a caller’s problems with one of many standard replies:

“Oh, that’s fine”, “That’s no problem” or even “Ok, brilliant”.

What she was noticing was the dissonance between how she was responding to the caller’s problems.  It didn’t fit. It was inauthentic.

In these situations, we need to slow down and pay attention. We need to, like Brown says, take on the perspective of our prospects.

How do they feel?

What are they going through?

How would that make me feel?

How would I want someone to listen to me and respond?

The difference between sympathy and empathy

We need to avoid judgement and recognise the real vulnerability in people. The other day a colleague mentioned to me that a medical professional she knew accepted any emotional response her patient was prepared to give.

If someone was upset, angry, frustrated, or nonplussed, she recognised that response unconditionally, and in so doing validated her patient’s emotions with great effect on their rapport and level of trust.

This is the difference between sympathy and empathy. Sympathy is, like Brown says, aiming to put a silver lining around problems by saying “at least it isn’t as bad as it could be”.

No, that doesn’t work, and it doesn’t help.

What does help is the genuine emotional connections that create real communication and understanding between us, not our superficial attempts to sympathise with problems, no matter how well intended.

Some of us feel anxious around emotions in business contexts. We worry about getting too close, or coming off as insincere or even intrusive if we empathise too much.

“I just don’t know what to do when they cry on the phone”, I’ve heard many of my trainees say.

Learn. And if you’re not prepared to do so, consider another line of work, because you’re being called to empathise every day.


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Meet our Founders

We’re passionate about helping leaders of high-quality, growth-minded practice owners double their practice revenue

Rod Solar

Founder & Scalable Business Advisor

Rod Solar is a co-founder of LiveseySolar and a Scalable Business Advisor / fCMO for our customers. Rod mentors and coaches CEOs/Founders and their leadership teams to double their sales, triple their profits, and achieve their “ideal exit”.

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LiveseySolar completely transformed the way we were approaching this… We’ve gone from having just the dream of having a practice to having a practice up and running with people making inquiries and booking for procedures… It’s extremely pleasing. We feel lucky we connected with LiveseySolar.

— Dr Matthew Russell, MBChB, FRANZCO, specialist ophthalmic surgeon and founder of VSON and OKKO

Laura Livesey

Founder & CEO

Laura Livesey is the co-founder & CEO of LiveseySolar. She has developed powerful refractive surgery marketing systems that increase patient volumes and profits for doctors, clinics, and hospitals, since 1997.

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Rod and Laura know as much about marketing surgery to patients as I know about performing it. They are an expert in the field of laser eye surgery marketing. They know this industry inside out. I believe that they could help many companies in a variety of areas including marketing materials, sales training and marketing support for doctors.

— Prof. Dan Reinstein, MD MA FRSC DABO, founder of the London Vision Clinic, UK