As a network marketer, you realize how essential communication skills are to your success. However, there is one communication skill every entrepreneur, direct sales expert or network marketer needs to master in order to be at the top of his or her game. That skill is the ability to empathize—to stop thinking about yourself and become “receiver-oriented.” What this means is simply to stay focused on your customers’ and prospects’ needs, wants and feelings.

When you practice empathy, you start looking at a situation from the other’s perspective. You allow yourself to fully identify with that person and feel the same feelings. If you have ever winced when someone else described being in pain or laughed at a funny story being recounted, you have experienced empathy.

Often people confuse empathy with sympathy. They are similar but not identical. Sympathy says, “I feel sorry for your pain,” while empathy says, “I feel your pain.” Empathy is what people most want. We want others to “get” us in a way that intellectual understanding alone cannot bring about. As human beings, we crave empathic connection. When you can feel someone else’s pain and know confidently that your product or opportunity can help relieve that pain, expressing your empathy will lead to greater success.

Three Dimensions of Empathy

Empathy comes in three dimensions. The first dimension is perspective taking, which means looking at a situation through another’s eyes. You suspend judgment and your own opinions so you can truly experience the other person’s perspective.

The second dimension is emotional, where you feel the other’s happiness, excitement, nervousness, anxiety or whatever emotion she is feeling at that moment. As you experience both the perspective and emotions of the other person, you are able to step into her shoes and sense a moment in the same way that she does.

The third dimension of empathy is a genuine concern for the other’s wellbeing. You truly want what’s best for the other person.

When you combine all three dimensions of empathy as part of your marketing message and presentation of your products and opportunity, you’ll appeal to a wider majority of people.

Empathy in Business

Experiencing empathy in your business means, for example, that you get a sense of how it feels to be bombarded with twenty e-mails in a week from the same person trying to sell you something. You understand how, when you are making a sale, it could take some time before the other person knows you and your business and feels you are trustworthy. Most people are wary of strangers. Would you want to do business with a total stranger?

Many of the marketing messages coming from network marketers could be seen as “get rich quick” opportunities with too-good-to-be-true promises for winning trips, cars, recognition and so forth. Certainly many network marketing companies do offer wonderful incentives, including ways to earn quickly, win big-ticket items and become a featured success story. However, by applying empathy, you can understand how the generosity of your network marketing company’s compensation and reward programs could seem somewhat unbelievable to a newcomer.

Practicing empathy means getting to the heart of what matters to the person in front of you. Here are six ways you can express empathy in your business:

1. Show your prospects how you’ve been where they are; tell them how you felt while you were in the same position. Regardless of what you’re selling, you likely can relate to your clients’ situation in a personal way. Share your own experience or stories of past customers you’ve helped.

2. Stop selling and start listening intently. When you practice active listening, your focus is fully on the speaker. You stop worrying about what you’re going to say next and simply pay attention to the other person. People value those who listen to them, understand what they are talking about and are sensitive to their emotions.

3. Avoid saying, “I know how you feel.” Even if we think we do, we can never truly experience what it is like to be another person because we don’t share the same past experiences. Saying “I know how you feel” can be interpreted as demeaning, even if you intend it as a show of solidarity. Try instead, “I had something similar happen to me and when it did I felt X. Is that how you feel?” You’ll keep the dialog open, express your emotions and show your empathic side.

4. Remember the Golden Rule and take it one step further. Don’t just treat others as you would like to be treated, but treat others the way you would want your mother, sister, best friend or other special and important person in your life to be treated.

5. Look at the situation from the other’s point of view rather than your own. What possible message could this person be receiving as a result of your actions or words? Even if you intend your message in one specific way, using empathy will allow you to experience other possible meanings to your message and make adjustments if necessary.

6. Validate others’ feelings as often as possible. Emotions are neither good nor bad and people have a right to feel them, regardless of whether or not you agree with them or would feel the same way. We each experience situations from our own perspective. You don’t have to agree with someone’s feelings in order to empathize. Ask, “How can I help?”

By following these simple guidelines, you’ll be well on your way to develop the habit of empathy. As you do, you may start to notice others gravitating toward you. In network marketing, you’ll see how people are easily drawn in when you have their best interests in mind and can express that through empathy. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results.

FELICIA J. SLATTERY is a communication consultant,
speaker and coach. She is the author of
Increase Business
by Communicating Your Credibility, a free e-course
developed for home-based business owners to generate
more cash flow through enhancing their credibility.