We know that empathy is important in building good relationships with our family and friends. However, empathy is also crucial in our professional lives and business success. Empathy allows us to be more insightful researchers. It allows us to see experiences in our consumers’ shoes and to create better products for them.
Here are 7 tips for your interactions with others (whether it’s with friends or with consumers) to become a more empathetic researcher:
- Recognize your preconceptions and prejudices. Be honest with yourself and be mindful of your preconceptions and where they come from (it’s ok – we all have them). Park them aside and be like a sponge, soaking up anything the another person has to say without judgement.
- Listen with your ears, eyes, and gut.
- What key words and phrases stand out? What tone are they using?
- What is their body doing while they speak?
- What does your instinct say about what is important to them and how they are feeling?
- Validate. Phrases like “I get it”, “That makes sense”, and “Of course you feel that way” validate the other’s feelings. You don’t have to agree, you just need to show that you understand what they are going through.
- Mirror. Studies have shown that going through the motion of making facial expressions can actually result in us experiencing the associated emotions. Imitate and mirror back the facial expressions of the person you are talking to so that you can tap into how they are feeling.
- Paraphrase. When actively listening, paraphrase and repeat what the person has said so that you can internalize what you’re hearing and also show that you understand what they said. If it becomes apparent when you paraphrase that you’re off the mark, they can use that as an opportunity to clarify.
- Tell me more. When listening to their story, try to understand why they might feel the way they do. Phrases like “What makes you say that?” or “Tell me more about that” can help you get closer to the “why”. Do your best to imagine yourself in their scenario.
- Don’t confuse sympathy and empathy. Empathy is a great, warm place to foster growth. Sympathy comes from a place of perceived superiority and can be very destructive.