We all believe we’re more empathetic than average, which is statistically impossible. Empathy is too often discussed in abstract terms, leading to misleading conclusions.
When I’m coaching advisors, I make it very concrete. I ask: How do you think a prospect feels when they walk into your office for the first time? The response is very consistent: Scared. Anxious. They don’t want to be there. Nervous. Confused. Threatened.
There’s something else I’ve observed when I ask this question. There’s a slight pause before answering it. I can tell it’s the first time many advisors have considered this issue.
That’s not surprising. When you meet a prospect, the bandwidth of your brain is occupied with your thoughts, your agenda and your goals. It’s difficult to “put yourself in the shoes of the other person” (a standard definition of empathy), when you don’t consider their state of mind at all.
Think about situations where you felt nervous, confused and threatened. Perhaps it’s having a root canal or anticipating surgery. How would you want the service provider to deal with your anxiety?
Would you want them to “educate” you about their background, experience and expertise? Would you want them to describe the procedure they are about to perform in great detail and explain why they recommended that procedure rather than others?
I suspect that would not be comforting.
Instead, what if they didn’t talk about themselves at all, and just asked you questions like:
How are you feeling?
What can we do to make this experience better for you?
What if they showed genuine empathy by saying something like: I can understand why deciding on an advisor you can trust with something this important is very daunting.
All of these questions and statements have something in common: They focus entirely on the prospect. There’s no sales pitch. No demonstrating why you are the best advisor for them. No effort to persuade them of anything.
If that’s the way you approach meetings with prospects, you are genuinely empathetic.
Resource of the week
This article discusses the science of empathy and why some people lack it.