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Developing Empathy – How to Improve Your Empathy Skills

Developing Empathy

Developing Empathy – How to Improve Your Empathy Skills

How Can You Develop Your Empathy Abilities?

So with all this in mind, you’re possibly asking yourself, how can you be more empathetic, or how can you use empathy more in your business and everyday life? So, I want to give you four empathy techniques that you can apply and employ straightaway to increase your empathy with others.

The first is closing the empathy gap. A lot of brands company’s organizations believe they show empathy to others but studies show that their customers don’t agree with that. In fact, one set of researchers who were studying this, discovered that only 20% of marketers accurately predict the next best course of action for their customers, which means they’re not being as empathetic as they could be. That said, if they really knew how to empathize with a customer and understand what they want, and more importantly what they need, instead of just getting them to fill out a survey or a feedback form, they could close this gap.

The second strategy to increase your empathy of others is by understanding their actual behavioral patterns. In a subsequent study from the one just mentioned, found that 75% of brands thought they did display empathy and were empathetic in their actions that represent their brand. But following up with their customers, researchers found that only 30% of their customers found that their brands that had previously been studied, actually, were demonstrating empathy. So it’s important to build empathy into your business analysis. 

The most effective way you can do that is by truly listening to your customers and not just getting data for the sake of getting data but by understanding what they want, and what they need. If Henry Ford had asked what people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses. So you need to meet people where they are and where they’re at. If somebody is hungry, battered, bruised and cold from the economic downturn or market you don’t try and sell them a cookery course, instead, you put your arm around them, give them some food, give them a drink, make them feel warm and loved and only then start talking to them about what’s next.

Use An Empathy Map

The next tool you could use to become more empathetic to your customers is to take advantage of an empathy map. This is a great tool that brands are using to develop and get into the shoes and see their brand from the perspective of their customers. An empathy map is a process for understanding the way that people behave. So if you’re really wanting to become more empathetic at work, don’t just ask your customers or your employees how they’re feeling, really get to understand them, and create an experience. 

Paint different pictures in their minds, to get people to act differently. If you want to get your customers, or indeed anyone to act differently, you need to get them to think and feel differently. It’s all about painting different pictures inside of their mind to encourage them to act differently. 

As a side note to make this overview of empathy complete, there was actually a piece of research that was conducted that showed Paracetamol can actually reduce your ability to empathize. There was a potential reason for this cited and one study found that one area of your brain lights up when you experience pain. But there’s also a part of your brain which lights up when you see that others are experiencing pain too. So what Paracetamol does to one side of the brain to reduce pain it also does to both sides and actually suppresses your ability to feel empathy.

Studies have also shown this to be true of people who have had Botox to reduce their ability to frown. If we cannot show our emotions, we cannot feel emotions and therefore are less empathetic.

Ask Better Questions To Develop Empathy

So, some additional techniques you can deploy to empathize with your customers and your employees involve asking better questions because better questions lead to better conversations better conversations lead to better relationships, and better relationships leads to increase empathy. Another strategy is you can try using mirroring others which is a traditional NLP technique. You should also try to improve you storytelling abilities to paint different pictures inside of their minds and helping them find out what they want to know. These two suggestions are great ways to show empathy. 

First, by asking better questions to create a connection and an understanding and then showing empathy to drill down into that connection further. It’s important to become an active listener, not just an active listener but a reactive listener. Good listeners wait for a gap in the conversation to reply but what a great listener does is that they wait for a gap in the conversation to ask more questions. If you ask more questions, you can understand what they want and what they need. You might think you can just ask people what they need to be able to empathize with them but at best, people will only tell you what they want. 

To understand what people really need you need to ask more questions to enable you to understand them as a person which in turn allows you to understand their behaviors and understand what makes them tick. If you understand what makes them tick you can serve their needs and serve them better and the by-product of this is you will have increased sales, increased connections and as a result, your employees and your customers and as mentioned before, will no doubt become raving fans of you, your organization, your products and your services. 

So consider how you can ask better questions, listen more intently and try and get a little bit closer to you employees and your customers. For you employees, try and shift the focus or the question from ‘what’s the matter?’ if they’re struggling with something to, ‘are you okay?’

How Empathy and Collaboration Sit Together

As a keynote speaker, you will know I speak a lot about collaboration and empathy is hugely important and valued in to the success of team collaboration. Empathetic team members are more likely to more be more helpful with other members of the team if they’re being more empathetic. And this assistance to colleagues allows others to have an increased willingness to share resources and knowledge is acts as the glue, which supports and strengthens the team cohesion and resilience and allows them to be more agile when it comes to overcoming challenges or difficulties. 

As a leader, it’s important to extend your empathy even further by regularly appreciating, recognizing and encouraging your team. If you do that, they’ll contribute their best work to the team and are more likely to take risks and take part in the collaborative and creative process.


But what about customer relations to ensure that you’re remaining competitive in a customer centric business? This is hugely important. Empathy is not just a moral obligation, but it’s actually imperative that you practice it to remain competitive, to understand their needs, their context, their preferences, the concerns of the customers and see what they want and need from their viewpoint. 

This allows you to deliver high levels of customer service and evolve your product or service to meet their needs. Above all practicing empathy creates more open levels of customer communication, which helps builds customer trust and loyalty. And for those leaders who are thinking that empathy doesn’t apply to them, you’re wrong. 

Empathetic leaders are more likely to inspire and motivate others in achieving their goals and as a result, if they achieve their goals and the organization achieves its goals, you’ll be seen (as a leader) in a far more favorable light. An empathetic leader is better positioned to offer recognition, guidance, support and encourage a work environment where employees feel valued and recognized and understood. This in turn, leads to lower staff turnover, increased job satisfaction, higher levels of engagement and more productivity which ultimately leads to an improved level of employee well-being.

Psychologically safe work environments is a phrase used a lot over the last few years and the reason it’s important is so that people can feel comfortable sharing their own thoughts, suggestions and ideas, and also their feelings without being judged by others or with fear of retaliation.

What Are The Main Benefits of Empathy?

As a result, empathy increases emotional safety, and shines the spotlight on the well-being and mental health of employees, which in turn reduces stress, and fosters a sense of belonging, which is what employees are looking for now more than just the paycheck. They’re looking to belong to a family and looking to come to work for something greater than the money at the end of the month. They want to be part of something bigger and looking to create something more important. It’s empathy that is the core to this. 

It helps shapes productive, inclusive workplaces, with a positive focus on a psychological safe environment. As a leader, empathy, and emotional intelligence shouldn’t be seen as a weakness or distraction from the primary goal of leading the organization are navigating change, but it should be seen as a strategic tool, which if harnessed properly, can contribute to overall organizational success and resilience. 

With increased levels of anxiety, stress, depression, mental health issues, empathy should be at the forefront of our minds not only as leaders, but all of our minds. By being empathetic to our colleagues, as much as our family members this leads to much more positive relationships with all and a much more happy, balanced life for everyone.


Duncan shares more tactical insights and strategies about achieving success, cultivating a high-performance mindset and fulfilling your potential on his YouTube Channel on Youtube.com/duncanstevens – To discover more about empathy for leaders or to even hire him to speak about high-performance leadership, influence or collaboration at your event you can follow the link below. Duncan is a professional keynote speaker and global authority on high-performance leadership, influence and collaboration.

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