Want to Become Truly Successful? Then Make Acquiring This Trait Your Goal
It influences every aspect of your work and personal life.
When you think about the most important skills for success, what comes to mind? Critical thinking? Persistence? Good judgement?
All important, perhaps, but one characteristic shines bright in all those who are true successes in life: empathy.
Empathy is certainly enjoying it’s day in the sun. It’s the trait du jour, with everyone rallying around and talking about how important it is. You can find online quizzes, articles, books and more around this current hot topic.
I daresay, though, that our infatuation with empathy isn’t without substance or endurance. It’s the critical piece for success in all things, from business ventures to relationships, and it’s more important than ever.
What Empathy Is
Empathy is, quite simply, the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. It goes a step further than sympathy, which is merely caring for, and feeling sorrow for, another’s pain.
Brené Brown, best-selling author and research professor at the University of Houston, has much to say on the topic of empathy.
“Empathy doesn’t require that we have the exact same experiences as the person sharing their story with us…Empathy is connecting with the emotion that someone is experiencing, not the event or the circumstance.”
Empathy is about connecting with others by understanding their viewpoints, experiences and emotions. It’s about being aware of another’s unique perspective and feeling “with” them, not “for” them.
And, as I’ll expound on below, empathy is absolutely crucial for success in all areas of life.
A Worthy Alliance
Success is tricky and there are, obviously, a host of traits that help successful people thrive. Why then, am I zeroing in on empathy?
Above all, empathy can give you a competitive edge in your business ventures. Being able to understand your customers’ needs is the first step to being a success.
Empathy also helps you predict the effect your decisions and products will have on your target market. You can then use that information to market more productively and formulate new strategies and plans moving forward.
Furthermore, people who feel as though you truly understand them will give you their loyalty, trust…and their referrals. Customers and clients want to feel seen and heard. It feels good to believe that others can relate to our feelings and pain points.
Being empathetic is, additionally, a crucial aspect of communication. Open, authentic conversation, where both parties feel heard, even if they don’t agree, is the hallmark of effective exchanges and positive change.
Personally, I think a lack of empathy should be an automatic disqualifier for any leadership position. CNN, as well as most news outlets, have given airtime to President Trump’s apparent lack of empathy and how it’s having a detrimental effect on his presidency and our country.
In business and entrepreneurship, being empathetic gives you a definite advantage.
No Less Important
Success, of course, is not at all limited to business matters. People with quality relationships are unquestionably empathetic, able to relate to others in an authentic and honest way.
Forbes states that “it’s important to remember that empathy can make or break relationships.” The people I feel closest to inevitably are the ones who are the most empathetic. I’m able to talk openly with them, and feel as though I’m understood.
Likewise, I can think of times when I’ve shared something personal with someone and felt misunderstood, or worse, judged. When this happens repeatedly, it leads to feeling unsafe and wary. I quickly find these relationships aren’t worthy of my time or energy.
A Learned Skill?
It’s no secret that some people are just naturally more empathetic than others. All hope is not lost, however. If you’re looking to strengthen your empathy muscle, there are a few things that can help.
Be present and focused. Show the person you’re speaking to that your attention is solely on them. Put down your phone, make eye contact, nod at the right places, demonstrate that you’re an engaged and active participant in the conversation. Make people feel as though they matter.
Validate their point of view. You absolutely do not need to agree with someone to validate their perspective. “I understand that you feel…” is a great starting point to show empathy for someone’s circumstances and feelings.
Check your motives. If you’re more concerned with being right than being empathetic, it will show. Truly empathetic people concern themselves with listening, not winning the point.
If you find yourself barely hearing the other person because you’re so busy forming your next argument, take a step back, refocus on the person in front of you, and really hear what they’re trying to convey.
Of course, you can’t fake empathy. All these things must be done authentically and honestly, not simply to gain a customer or make a friend.
Empathy is truly the most important skill you need to succeed in all aspects of life. Be mindful of how you’re treating and relating to others, make an adjustment if necessary, and watch your personal and professional lives flourish.