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“Business volume to our new targeted market increased by 300% in just 3 MONTHS! ”

~ Dave Brandt, Divisional Vice President, GE Financial Advisors, Genworth

Posts Tagged ‘empathy’

There Will Be Some Tethering. Huh?

Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

Alan Alda bookImagine sitting in your dentist’s chair, the sharp end of a blade hovering just above your face, mere inches away from making contact. At that moment you hear the dentist utter the following five words: “There will be some tethering.”

The patient — wondering as to any potential relationship between said sharp instrument and his mouth — nervously asks what he means by “tethering.” The dentist is curt, impatient, and both his words and mannerisms hardly reassuring. (“Tethering, tethering!”) Well, that explains it. Thank you.

This turns out to cause an effect that will make it very difficult from this time on for the patient to smile — whether spontaneously or on cue — without it looking like a sneer.

For most of us, this would simply be annoying. For a professional actor it could be disastrous.

This is what happened many years ago to seven-time Emmy-winning actor, writer, and director Alan Alda, and it became the catalyst for his deep scientific search to better understand the process of effective communication.

In his new book, If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? — My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating, Mr. Alda demonstrates not only that this study and research worked for him, but also how much it has benefitted countless others, including many whom we simply do not think of as great communicators … such as scientists.

Yes, scientists, those men and women who must be able to communicate to the rest of us non-scientists the significance of some of the most important aspects of our universe.*

Mr. Alda, who helped found the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University in New York, writes, “The key, the fundamental ingredient without which real communication can’t happen [is] developing empathy and learning to recognize what the other person is thinking…In acting we call it relating.”… [and] “relating is everything.”

Wait a minute. Did that passage really equate empathy with “recognizing what the other person is thinking”? Isn’t that like reading someone’s mind? But I often say that because we all operate from different belief systems, we can’t really know what the other person is thinking, thus, we can’t read minds. Right?

Or am I wrong? Read the book and find out. You might just have your belief system expanded!

Oh, and just in case you can’t read my mind…I highly recommend reading this book. It’s a Masters Degree in Communication.


*Would probably also help tethering-oriented dentists to more effectively communicate with their patients.

Steve Harvey and Rechecking Our Empathy

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015

Miss Universe 2015I didn’t watch the Miss Universe Pageant this past weekend. Like most everyone, however, I couldn’t help but hear what happened at the end. Yes, Steve Harvey, the very popular television personality who was hosting the event mistakenly announced the wrong person as the winner.

Obviously, while not a tragedy in the true sense of the word, it’s still a highly embarrassing and…well, just a really unfortunate thing to have happened.

Being who he is, Mr. Harvey took full responsibility and apologized. (See this excellent article by my friend, Barbara Abramson.)

And, there’s no question that he felt (and still feels) absolutely sick about it!

Twitter Insults Afire!

While there were some encouraging tweets, basically, the Twitterverse and all social media lighted up with insults and other Steve Harvey-based negative memes.

What’s disappointing is that most of these people are generally charitable, kind, and would most likely come to the aid of anyone they believed to be in need. However, they eagerly participated in the Steve Harvey pile-on, laughing at the misfortune of others.

All it really takes is a bit of thought to understand why it’s inappropriate. No, make that a bit of feeling. A bit of putting oneself in another’s place.

We seem to have lost some of that empathy of late.

Now, of course, Steve Harvey will most likely not know of any one individual’s tweet, laughter, or derision.

However, There Are Many Others

Let’s take this situation and bring it closer to home. When someone we know makes a horrible mistake at work, or says something that embarrasses him or her in the eyes of others, or commits some kind of social faux pas, what do we do?

Do we laugh (out loud or even to ourselves)? Or, do we feel badly for them? Do we stand up for them publicly or — if that’s not appropriate or possible — take them aside and at least encourage them?

Do we teach our children to FEEL for those at school who are bullied or made fun of?

Do we keep from unnecessarily shaming a person? Do we teach our children the importance of same?

These are simply human questions.

Let’s all realize that when someone makes a mistake, the chances are they already feel ashamed. Let’s not shame them further. And, yes…let’s even empathize with them.

It’s part of being human. Just like Steve Harvey.

Even With Empathy And Sympathy, It’s All About Focus

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

EmpathyWe’ve previously discussed the importance of Empathy. I’ve always loved Zig Ziglar’s explanation regarding the difference between empathy and sympathy. Briefly, with empathy, while you feel for the other, you are still able to be part of the solution and help. With sympathy, you identify so strongly that you become part of the problem and are not able to help.

I was reminded of another significant difference between the two while re-reading a passage in Tim Sanders‘ excellent book, The Likability Factor. Tim points out a significant difference between the two in terms of focus:

“If you are sympathetic to others, your heart goes out to them and you feel compassion, but these are your feelings. You don’t know what they’re feeling. You’re not trying to know. You’re simply feeling bad that others feel bad (or lonely, or depressed, or angry).

“If you are empathetic to others, however, you are not merely feeling sorry for them but are projecting yourself into their hearts, as though you are sensing what it’s like to be in their shoes.”

As I like to say, Wowee Wow!

In other words, sympathy is about you, while empathy is about them.

So, while sympathy is certainly admirable, it’s not necessarily where the focus should be. If we truly want to provide value to the other person, empathy is much more productive because it means our focus is on them. And, that’s where it should be.

How do you do in the area of empathy versus sympathy? Could Tim‘s wise words serve as a trigger to you in future situations to perhaps shift your focus? I know it will for me.

They Can Be Learned

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

While tact is mainly a skill it is also an attitude.

While empathy is mainly an attitude it is also a skill.

Fortunately, both can be learned.

The Beauty of Empathy

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

Not only is empathy a vitally important part of the selling process; it is also a vitally important part of the human process. This is true whether trying to understand why someone is resistant to our viewpoint or if we are simply attempting to help them through an issue or difficult time.

I believe that in any relationship — business or personal — empathy is a key differentiator between the successful and the unsuccessful. Those who have the talent and skill; both at having empathy and being able to communicate empathy are at a huge advantage over those who don’t.

Dictionary.com defines Empathy as “the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.” Being a simple fellow, I just say it is really nothing more than — as the saying goes — putting yourself in the other person’s shoes.

If we have similarities in experience, we might actually be able to really identify; to know what and/or how they are feeling.

But, what if that is not the case? Let’s face it; there are times when not only do we not know exactly how they feel…we have absolutely no idea how they feel!

Yet, we can still be empathetic. You see, empathy doesn’t necessarily mean you actually feel what the other person feels. The truth is, you might not. It does mean you communicate that you understand they are feeling … something.

When someone with true empathy listens…the other person feels truly heard. And feeling heard is what often makes the difference.

In a Facebook discussion, I suggested that I even think we can feel (or at least identify with) a similar emotion even if we don’t know exactly what/how they are feeling, and that’s what communicates to them that we care. In response, Pastor Tom Sims wrote, “there is always something inside of us, some memory of personal pain or struggle that unites us in a common humanity and enables us to relate in compassion.” WOW!

And, if that wasn’t an exquisite enough thought, Pamela McBride followed that up by saying,  “Compassion is only a heart beat away when we tap into our own struggles.”


Oh, have I ever mentioned that I have the world’s coolest friends and readers?