The ability to be empathetic in both life and business is an invaluable skill. Unfortunately you can’t open a book or watch a presentation to learn empathy. You can learn what it is and why it is important, but not how to actually express it. Like other soft skills, practice is key in learning how to exercise empathy when it matters.
Why is practice so important? Let’s consider mastering good form in a simple physical exercise such as push ups. We can certainly learn tips from experts or watch video examples demonstrating good form, but nothing ensures success like practice. Now let’s be clear, the consequence of less-than-ideal form for push ups is minor, the same cannot be said about empathy. The challenge with empathy is its importance in sensitive conversations or interactions between people. Poor, or no expression of empathy can have catastrophic consequences for everyone involved in an interaction.
In business, empathy is nearly always exercised in parallel with technical or hard skills, making for a difficult balancing act. Zelus Consulting Group, who are considered to be experts in empathy suggest that empathy training be layered on top of a solid technical foundation. This yields a highly effective combination of technical skills with the ability to deliver an empathetic experience to customers or even coworkers.