How empathy can play a role in your career every day

Have you ever taken the time to stop and reflect on the experience of others around you? Have you considered how another person might be experiencing the same situation that you are experiencing?

Empathy is not just the latest craze or catchword

The challenge of empathy is not in agreeing that the other person is right or applauding whatever they do. The challenge is accepting that based on what they believe, what they want and what they know, they’re acting rationally. The act of truly understanding empathy is standing in another person’s shoes and actually understanding their thoughts and desires and sitting with that.

Have you ever taken the time to sit down and reflect on how a client has experienced an outcome? Say you have been to court with a client and the outcome hasn’t been what the client expected. The client is upset and distressed because of a decision made by a judge. Imagine for a moment you were in that client’s shoes. The experience of that Court event might have been something like this.

Understanding your client’s experience

Meet Rachel. I can’t believe I’m sitting here.  He’s going to get away with it again.  How can he.  How is it fair that he gets to bring me to Court to take our 6 year old child overseas for 4 weeks.  This is ridiculous.  I can’t believe it.  He booked the trip before he even asked me if he could go.  He just assumes that I’ll say yes or he’ll bully me in to it.

My lawyer is here now.  Good.  She says it’s a good chance thinks will go okay but everything really depends on the Judge.  But the Judge will read the report right?  It says only 2 week holidays.  They should she says but once we go in the Court room it’s very much up to the Judge. 

Well what the hell just happened.  What do you mean the Judge thinks it’s okay for a longer holiday.  What about the report.  He’s 6.  He’s so little.  Doesn’t the Judge understand that 2 ½  weeks once you add in the travel time is like 3 ½ weeks… like he just got away with it…  What do you mean I need to negotiate with him.  It’s his fault.  He booked the flights without talking to me about it.  Now you are telling me I should let him go.  I know it’s an option.  But it’s the principle – how is this fair.  It’s always been like this.  He just keeps pushing me around.   Look whatever I’m over this.  I just want to go home.  I’ll just agree so I can get out of here.

I need someone stronger than this.  I mean I just got pushed into agreeing to the arrangement.  This isn’t what I’m paying for.  I need someone to push John around.   I just spent a heap of money so that he could take our 6 year old overseas.  Unbelievable.

It’s an interesting perspective isn’t it?  To actually stop and reflect on how a person is actually experiencing a process is powerful. When we pause and reflect on the experience of the other person we start to understand how we can manage our client’s expectations.

Perspective can change our approach

If we think through the possible outcomes and then think about them from the client’s position it is a very different outcome to how might approach the situation.

A similar outcome could apply in any client interaction regardless of your profession. Consider the client meeting where you have asked the client to come in to go through the outcome of their most recent financial disclosure. You have some tough news to tell them about their taxation obligations and consequences. Before delivering that information put yourself in that client’s shoes and think about how that client might receive that information. Truly think about the personality and nature of that client.

Take the time to reflect on a recent client interaction that you have had. Think about that interaction from your client’s perspective. Would that have changed how you would have interacted with your client or explained the process.

Ultimately this process will open you up to a new way of understanding your clients, their needs and their expectations.  It will also help you to understand and process how clients or other parties react and be less reactive or judgmental when on the receiving end of a curt email or comment.  Try it and see if it changes your perspective.

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