Empathy: The Missing Ingredient for Rock Solid Trust

Trust in our relationships is at an all time low. The problem is that in order to build trust, we have to know how to understand one another – we have to be stellar at empathy. I wonder, if you added “empathy” to your LinkedIn skills right now, how many people would endorse you for it? 

Empathy, especially for men, can be a hard sell. It sounds too “warm and fuzzy.” But there’s plenty of scientific research supporting an effort to do it right. Strong empathy skills are related to better marriages, less crime, and more loyal business customers. 

How strong is your empathy muscle? Take this quick quiz to gain some insight: http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/ei_quiz/.

Wherever you are on the empathy scale today, the good news is that you can get better. Empathy is a social skill - the more you use it the stronger it gets. Before we get to the nuts and bolts of empathy, let me clarify what empathy has to do with building trust. In the first part of this series we discovered that humans crave control in their relationships. We’re always trying to size up our colleagues and partners to figure out if we can truly trust them.

Enter Empathy.

Remember the last time you thought someone really understood you and how you felt? Chances are they were skillful empathizers. It’s also probably the case that you felt more comfortable with them and likely trusted them more.

Before we jump into ways to improve our empathy, let’s get a better read on where you are in your relationships today. Try this:

When you’re with your significant other or a close friend next time, focus on doing the following two things:

1.     Ask questions, don’t assume you know. We’re not mind readers and most of us don’t guess very well. When you’re listening to a story, ask questions to clarify meaning: “Do you mean _____?”

2.     Listen for feelings. Focus on tone of voice and look for subtle expressions of sadness, excitement, or frustration. The most important thing is to be looking – then follow up with #1, by asking with loads of curiosity: “Are you feeling ______?”

Practice this for at least 10-minutes a day for the next week and stay tuned for the last installment in this series. We’ll jump into the science of empathy and why it’s so powerful.

If you think your spouse “just doesn’t have a clue” about how you feel or lacks the empathy muscle all together, send them my way: request a free 15-minute phone consultation.