“When you show deep empathy toward others, their defensive energy goes down, and positive energy replaces it. That’s when you can get more creative in solving problems.”
- Stephen Covey
Let’s face it: In business, we regularly need to convince people to embrace a new idea, to share our vision of a better future, to buy a new product, or take any other meaningful course of action. To convince people of a new idea, better communicate with empathy. Relate to their ways and show sympathy to their desires, wants, and needs. But how can you do this? How can you find out what makes them tick? Today, let’s discuss how you can communicate with greater empathy with the help of TIPS, Thinkergy’s cognitive profiling test for business and innovation.
What does it mean to communicate and convince empathetically?
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. On the other hand, communication means the imparting or exchange of information or news; the term can also be defined as the successful conveying or sharing of ideas and feelings. Finally, to convince means to persuade someone to do something .
Taken all together, we can say that when we communicate empathetically, we successfully convey information and share ideas and feelings with another person while being able to relate to and understand their feelings, wants, and needs. We want to communicate with greater empathy to persuade people to do something we believe is good for them.
Why should you communicate more empathetically?
“Empathy is one of our greatest tools of business that is most underused.”
- Mexican-American billionaire businessmen Daniel Lubetzky
When we empathize while communicating with other people, we pay respect to their world views and their preferred styles to think, work, interact, and live. We sympathize with their points of view. We talk the same language as them. We relate to their wants, desires and needs. We feel their challenges and pains. We put ourselves in their shoes and walk a mile in these to experience the world as they do. Showing empathy makes us aware that for most situations in business and life, there is more than just one truth. In short, sympathizing with others and communicating with greater empathy makes it easier to create win-win solutions.
How to plan and structure a more empathetic communication
Widely popular in marketing, advertising, and sales, the AIDA model (attention, interest, desire, action) can help us to think about the different phases of empathetic communication:
- Approach and attention: How to best approach people with a particular personality? How to best reach out and connect with them? How to get their attention?
- Interest: How to open them up? How to engage them and get them interested in a topic?
- Desire: How to make them gain a favorable disposition towards an idea? How to find a shared point of view that aligns both interests? What triggers can alleviate their pain or inspire their desire?
- Action: How to convince them and make them agree to a mutually beneficial course of action?
It is important to point out that communicating with empathy and respect isn’t the same as manipulating people. When we interact empathetically, we look for ways to convince others to take a beneficial course of action that is good for them and us (win-win). In contrast, when someone communicates with the intent to manipulate, that person typically wants to influence others to take a particular action that solely or predominantly benefits themselves (win-lose).
How to communicate more empathetically with people from different TIPS bases
While you may not be able to guess someone’s TIPS profile right away, you probably have a rough idea about which TIPS base orientation a particular colleague or client of yours is attracted to. Your intuition about a person’s likely TIPS base may serve as a gauge to direct your communication approach. You may gain further hints if you listen for certain keywords that people of the different TIPS base tend to use frequently. (I discussed this in an earlier article titled What “keywords” reveal about people’s personality).
So how can we communicate with greater empathy with the people from each TIPS base?
How to communicate more empathetically with “T-People” at the Theories-base?
Approach & attention: Most people you find at the Theories-base (“T-People”) tend to be more private. If you want to initially make contact with them, then best do it in writing via email or more sophisticated social media such as LinkedIn. Before you compose your message, find out more about what’s their expertise. Then, ask a few precise questions to get them talking (such as “What research project do you currently work on?” or “What book are you reading at the moment?”). If you want to meet them in person, be respectful and courteous, and avoid “invading their space”. Ask for permission first before entering their office (e.g., “Excuse me, may I have a moment of your time?”).
Interest: Prepare and research data and information in advance before talking with T-People. Let them take their time to get interested in talking to you. Tell them that you’re interested in their expertise, and give them a plausible reason why. Invite them to share their knowledge with you. Be a good listener, and ask precise questions to let them share their opinions.
Desire: To make T-People gain a favorable disposition towards an idea, get them to talk about the ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ of it. Then, ask them for their ideas on how to mitigate or resolve the cons that every idea has. Finally, line up a logical chain of arguments that leads to a definite conclusion supporting your line of thought that the idea is truly worthy.
Action: Prepare and show hard logical evidence that highlights the value potential and feasibility of your idea. Alternatively, convince T-People with ‘demonstration’ (e.g., by showing a prototype). Convince T-People to agree to a suggested, beneficial course of action by showing that the evidence-supported idea both supports their favored theoretical perspectives and will work in practice.
“Leadership is about empathy. It is about having the ability to relate to and connect with people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives,”
- Oprah Winfrey.
How to communicate more empathetically with “I-People” at the Ideas-base?
Approach and attention: I-People are pretty informal and casual, so it’s comparatively easy to approach them provided you do this at the right time. Connect with them in the mid to late afternoon or early evening when they have completed their main creative work for the day and are open for fresh inspiration. The ideal way to grab the attention of an I-person is to take notice of what’s “individual” about them. I-People tend to be highly individualized and like to stand out from the crowd, so compliment them on an extravagant fashion accessory or a colorful piece of clothing that they use to flag their originality.
Interest: At first, engage I-People in small talk about the latest trends in technologies, inventions, fashions, lifestyles, and traveling. Ask them about these trends and the ‘future’, then listen to their viewpoints and ideas and expand on them by sharing our opinion. Also, share information about new toys, gadgets, apps, tools or games with them, and ask them about their hobbies.
Desire: After you’ve gained an I-Person’s recognition as a worthy fellow-avant-gardist, it’s time to get down to business. Briefly explain what’s your challenge and related goal, and share the essential information. Then, continue by sharing your ideas or your vision of a better future. Make your pitch lively and energetic, and communicate using lots of visuals and fewer words. Finally, invite the I-people to contribute additional ideas to expand on your idea or vision. Open the door for them to showcase their creativity. Show them how much you appreciate their ideas, and treat them like a creativity ‘guru’ to keep them energized.
Action: Convince I-People of your vision and persuade them to agree to support you or buy into your idea. Sell them the inspiration and the “product of the product”, the higher-order value of your idea. (For example, making humanity multi-planetary is the higher-order value behind Elon Musk’s vision of humans settling down on Mars. Musk believes pursuing this goal is essential to ensure humanity’s continuance as a species.) Emphasize the idea of “doing it together,” ask how to get started quickly, and support their ideas. Then, let them take action to take the first step and give them the freedom to do as they think is appropriate.
How to communicate more empathetically with “P-People” at the People-base?
Approach and attention: P-people are super-social, so they’re easy to approach almost anytime. If you don’t yet know them well, then first contact and befriend them on social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook, or approach them on a networking event. Then, invite them for an informal face-to-face meeting over coffee or lunch, and build a good relationship with them first and become familiar with other people in their work team or key social groups. Later on, regularly hangout together and buy and bring snacks and sweets when you meet.
Interest: Be talkative and casual when you meet with P-people. Talk about current affairs, fashion and lifestyle topics, and ask them about their hobbies, family and friends, and other colleagues in their team. If possible, include humor and jokes to your communication.
Desire: Share your view of a challenge that society, their community, or their business faces right now. Describe the situation, the challenge, and what we ideally want to achieve in a simple way. Speak with sincerity and honesty to them. Then, ask them to share their opinion on the issue. Suggest to brainstorm more ideas on how to address the issue together, and suggest your main idea alongside others while complimenting their ideas. Later on, come back to your main idea that you want them to embrace, then ask them for advice. Highlight the benefits of your idea to society, a community, or their business, and how you’d like to make this idea happen together.
Action: Show them that the idea and the related activities are not challenging to do. Suggest to implement the idea together and to jointly make it successfully. Then, take joint action and thank them for their help. After finishing the work, take them for drinks and hang-out together to celebrate the successful completion of the joint project.
How to communicate more empathetically with “S-People” at the Systems-base?
Approach and attention: Systems-people are formal and proper in their business conduct, so make an official appointment and create an agenda for an important meeting with them that you share in advance. If you call them by phone, arrange a time to talk or ask them if it’s convenient for them to talk now. Be organized and timely in your communications with S-people, and talk with clear purpose.
Interest: Get them talking first. Ask them: “What concerns you?” to learn more about their current issues and concerns. Then, share with them your idea on how you may help them alleviate their pains. Prepare specific information and a clear requirement for them that support your view. Be aware that S-people love to say “no” to ideas and find many reasons as to why not to do new things, and deal with any critical remarks from them in a positive, assertive way and not change anything
Desire: Explain what is the situation that you want to help them to address proactively. Be direct and to the point. To counter their tendency to wait until the last minute before making a change, ask them the question: “What happens if you continue to do nothing?” Appeal to their sense for security and mitigating risks.
Action: When you make a case to S-people, don’t leave room for imagination (they’re not into this). Prepare the pertinent facts, names, and evidence that supports your idea. Then, take the time to explain step-by-step what you want to do with them, thereby being as detailed and explicative as possible. Provide all missing & complete information like timeline, objective, etc., so they can see what’s it like and like and reasonable for them. Set a timeline and specify expected the results. Then, let them plan how to proceed best and take action by themselves. Most importantly, show them how your idea positively affects the bottom line, how it improves ROI, or how it increases efficiency. By providing detailed information, you can convince them that following your suggested course of action is a reasonable, feasible, and safe thing that they should do.
Conclusion: Tune into the right frequency to empathetically broadcast your call to action
How did I collect the information on how we may communicate with greater empathy with people from each TIPS base? This is based on the collective feedback of those people who populate each base on how they wish to be talked to and convinced of following a suggestion of taking a certain meaningful course of action. Let me explain.
One of the many games and exercises we play with delegates attending one of our TIPS Innovation Profiling workshops is “The TIPS Empathy Game”. Thereby, we split the delegates into four “base teams” based on their dominant TIPS base. Then, using the AIDA questions as a guiding reference, each TIPS ‘base team” outlines how they intend to empathetically relate to the people from the other bases. Moreover, they also specify how to best approach, communicate with, and convince them. Finally, we go through each TIPS base and see how close the other teams meet the preferred communication needs that each base team outlined for themselves. For each presentation round, the “real base team” decides which of the other teams is closest to their preferred communication patterns and thus becomes its “Base Babe” (and earns points).
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© Dr. Detlef Reis 2019