Empathy for Clients is Key in Communication
By Felicia J.
I am often asked what is the one communication skill
small business owners should possess in order to be as successful as
possible. The best advice I can give is to be receiver-oriented, which is
the fancy communication way of saying stay focused on your clients' and
prospects' needs and wants. Sure there are techniques for all sorts of
communication skills like becoming more confident; boosting your "know,
like, and trust" factor; putting together a speech; and rules about email
etiquette. Certainly learning more about all these areas will improve your
But what's most important to remember is to always keep in mind your client
or prospect. If you pay more attention to your clients and prospects and put
yourself in their shoes, you'll be practicing empathy. And empathy is the
most important communication skill a person can have at work or at home. By
putting yourself in the other's place, you'll get a sense of how it feels to
be bombarded with 20 emails in a week from the same person trying to sell
you something, for example. You'll understand how it could take a little
while to make a sale until the other person knows you and your business and
feels you are trustworthy.
Empathy is different than sympathy. Sympathy says, "I understand." But
empathy says, "I feel your pain." And THAT'S what people most want. We want
others to "get" us in a way that understanding alone cannot bring about.
Here are a few tips to help you express empathy for your clients and
Show them how you've been where they are and tell them how
you felt while you were in the same situation. Whether you're selling
jewelry or virtual assistance services, you can probably relate to your
clients' problems in a very personal way.
Stop selling and start listening —intently.
Never, ever in any circumstance say, "I know how you feel."
You can say, "I had something similar happen to me and when it did I felt
X. Is that how you feel?"
Remember the Golden Rule and then take it one step further.
Don't only treat others as you would like to be treated, but treat others
the way you would want your mother, sister, best friend, or other person
who is important and special in your life to be treated. After all, these
people (clients and prospects) are so special they may give you some of
their hard-earned money!
Try to look at the situation from the other's point of view,
rather than your own. What possible message could s/he be receiving as a
result of your actions or words?
Validate others' feelings as often as possible. People have
a right to feel their emotions, regardless of if you agree with them or
would feel the same way. Ask, "How can I help?"
By following these simple guidelines, you'll be well on your
way to practicing empathy regularly. Once you do, you'll likely be
pleasantly surprised by the results!
Copyright 2007. Felicia J. Slattery.
Felicia J. Slattery, M.A., M.Ad.Ed., is a Communication Consultant, Speaker and Coach
with more than a decade of experience teaching people effective and powerful
communication skills in order to achieve their happiest and most successful
lives. Felicia offers a free e-course for small business owners called
Increase Business by Communicating Your Credibility at her website:
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