How To Build Your ‘Empathy Muscle’

Empathy is the ability to perceive what others are feeling and thinking without having to express it in words.

How do empathetic people capture signs of the emotional and cognitive state of those they are talking to without conversation?

Every single one us unconsciously sends out signals about our emotions through our tone of voice, gestures, facial expressions, breathing rates, etc. There is a little place within our brain in charge of detecting these signals from the entire body, and empathetic people are able to use these signals to decipher which state the other person is in.


Why is it important to be empathetic?

Empathetic people are much more effective at communicating, at all levels, which is not only key to enjoying great social relationships, but also has numerous benefits in the working environment. For example, empathetic people can easily interpret the motivations of each of their team members, and therefore ensure that their team always gives their best performance. Likewise, empathetic people also tend to adapt quickly to various situations and new environments.


Are all people equally empathetic?

As with many of the so-called ‘soft skills’, some people are naturally more empathetic than others. However, the good news is that our brain has the ability to continuously restructure itself in relation to the experiences we have – something we call this Neuroplasticity.

How can we train our brain to be more empathetic, or build our ‘empathy muscles’?

Below are 3 steps to build your “empathy muscle”:

1. Commit to improve

Ask yourself what benefits you will get if you become more empathetic? More sales? Better social relationships? Improved harmony within your team? Each individual needs to find their own particular motive, which drives them to most of every situation and use it as a valuable opportunity to practise empathy.


2. Focus your objective on the day to day situations

Choose times when you’re meeting with members of your team in the work place to practise empathy. During these moments, as well as discussing pertinent issues, concentrate on your feelings and perceptions about the emotional state of the other person/people.

– Are they happy today?

– What’s their energy level like?

– Do they seem nervous? Preoccupied?

– Have they listened to you properly or does it seem like they’re thinking about something else?

– Do they trust me?

These are just some examples, but the point is, we need to constantly exercise our empathy muscle whenever the opportunity arises.


3. Get feedback

Get feedback about every one of your feelings or impressions about the emotional state of the other person. This is a vital step, because not only do you want to practise, but you also want to improve and start accurately predicting other people’s feelings. Don’t be shy about asking your colleagues, friends and family for feedback – they have valuable information that will help you become more effective in showing empathy. Remember what you will achieve if you become more empathetic. Bring this to the forefront of your mind so that you don’t feel embarrassed or insecure when feeling exposed around other people.


Relating this to Sales…

To be more specific in relation to selling, being empathetic and listening effectively is all about putting our focus on the prospect rather than on our own agenda, thoughts and feelings, with the purpose of gaining a deep understanding of our prospect´s needs, problems and vision as well as building trust based relationships with them.

Here are some tips:

1. Use every sales call as an opportunity to train empathy/ listening skills.

2. Put your attention on the other person´s body language (tone of voice, pace, pauses, emotions behind the words). Try to figure out the prospect´s emotions behind the words. Use your intuition, your guts. What is not being said here?

4. After the sales call ask yourself: how does this person feel/ think about this sales opportunity? On a scale from 0 to 10 how interested I think/ feel/see he is at this point in the sales cycle? What objections/ doubts/ fears might he have? Have a go!

5. After the next call with this person take a moment and ask yourself how accurate your perceptions about your prospect were.


Natural Training has run several courses around improving empathy in sales and customer experience, for example with Virgin Retail – Please click here to read more and Dell Computers, for which we won prestigious Global Training Award for our work at helping the business become more empathetic.

For more information and finding the right solution for you, please call one of our experts now on 0207 043 1582.

Got a comment?

Catch us on Social Media and join the discussion!

Liked this article?

Subscribe to receive sales insights and tips directly to your inbox.

Click the tick box below to confirm you are human


Just 3 quick details to reveal how competitive our prices are.

Full Name
Telephone No

Don’t worry we will never share your details with any 3rd party.

Thank you.