One of the 5 principles of IT customer service success is empathy. Empathy is the ability to put yourself in the other person’s position, to feel and understand what they’re experiencing. Empathy, combined with technical ability, is a powerful formula for success at work.

How Can You Be More Empathetic?

  1. Listen. Truly listen to the other person. Listen with the intent to understand them. Stop your mental chatter, put down your smart phone, and really listen to the other person. While you’re listening to the other person, it’s not necessary to agree with them. Instead, focus on trying to understand their point of view, regardless of whether you agree or not. Recall Stephen Covey’s habit #5 from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
  2. Use empathetic language. Phrases such as “I’m sorry that happened to you”, “I don’t blame you for feeling that way”, or “I’m sure I’d feel the same if I were in your position” can help us reflect on the other person’s experience. Of course, the words and phrases themselves don’t do the trick. You must be sincere in saying them, but the act of saying empathetic words and phrases can serve to make us more aware of what our brothers and sisters are experiencing.
  3. Don’t be judgmental. As one human to another, that’s not really our job. Understand that we all approach life from a unique perspective, that no one’s experience is the same as another’s.
  4. Practice curiosity about others. Part of being empathetic is being interested in other people. Ask questions about where they’re from, their beliefs, and their values without being judgmental. Let them talk without jumping in with your own perspective.
  5. Challenge your own prejudices. Just because you believe something, doesn’t mean it’s true or the only truth. Author Tom Kida says it very well in the title of his book, Don’t Believe Everything You Think. Put yourself in situations where you might hear philosophical or political discussions that differ from your beliefs and just listen.
  6. As with compassion, look for commonalities instead of differences. Make no mistake about it, each of us is unique and we have many differences between us, but we also have a lot in common.
  7. Avoid labeling people. It’s a lot easier to hate a label than a person. When we get to know each other as people, not as Democrats or Republicans, Christians or Muslims, blacks or whites, or whatever opposing labels you choose, we realize that, in spite of our differences, we’re all connected in many ways.

What are the Benefits of Empathy?

Working on building empathy has all kinds of benefits. Children who are taught empathy are less aggressive, have lower levels of stress and depression, and do better academically.

Empathy is a foundation for morality. In the presence of empathy, cruelty cannot exist. Empathy can head off conflicts before they even start, prevents conflicts from escalating, and is a key component in conflict resolution. Empathy builds trust, it helps build stronger relationships, and it reminds us that people are not machines, they have feelings. If we’re going to be masters at customer service, whether in IT or any other field, our ability to empathize with our fellow humans is key to success in today’s workplace.

What do you think?

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