• Empathy is the ability to step into the shoes of another person, understand his or her feelings and point of view, and use that understanding to guide our actions.
  • Great customer service is mostly about empathy.
  • Buying and selling real estate is an emotional event for most people. How our clients feel colors the transaction.

I have not seen a free webinar for real estate agents about empathy.

It is one of those soft skills that we need when we work with people. There are no continuing education classes, and it isn’t on the state licensing exam.

It’s at the top of my list of things I want to work on in 2017 and one of the abilities I look for in agents who I want to be part of my company.

What empathy really means

Empathy is the ability to step into the shoes of another person, aiming to understand his or her feelings and point of view, and to use that understanding to guide our actions.

Most of us start to develop empathy in childhood, and we can nurture it as we go through life and use it to understand others.

Maybe in 2017 empathy will be the new black or orange. There are numerous articles about how managers need to use empathy in the work place and entire books about how empathy can help deepen our relationships and help us become more successful in business.

We could all benefit from working with real estate agents, real estate offices and associations that are more empathetic. It is empathy that helps us understand what the lives of others might be like.

It also helps us create organizations that are inclusive and gives us the ability to provide extraordinary customer service.

Great customer service is mostly about empathy.

When my 3-year-old furnace stopped working the night before Thanksgiving, the company I usually call was not able to convince me that it even understood why not having heat was a problem — when the temperatures outside were below freezing.

Maybe the company did understand, but it failed to convey that understanding to me. I dumped that company and called someone else.

The company I called sent a technician out a couple of hours later and charged us extra for the emergency service — but he acted like he understood the importance of central heating.

The company treated me like my call mattered and like it was just sitting around, waiting for someone to call with a broken furnace so its people could fix it. I would rather work with them.

Show, don’t tell

It isn’t enough to have a recorded message stating that a call is important. Actions speak louder than words.

Answering or returning calls, listening to what callers say and expressing interest in them and their needs shows that the call is important.

Using empathy works well during negotiations, too. By understanding how the other party feels, we have a better chance of suggesting a solution that might be acceptable to all parties.

Let’s face it; buying and selling real estate is an emotional event for most people. How our clients feel colors the transaction.

An example is the homeowner who says “no one ever paid my closing costs; why should I help these buyers?” It is empathy that allows us to understand how he or she might feel so that we can use a different approach when negotiating to pay the buyers’ closing costs.

When buyers lose out on the home they wanted after they made the lowball offer we advised against, we still need to be empathetic.

It is their home purchase, and how much they offer is their choice. I don’t always agree with the decisions my clients make, but if I try, I can understand why they made them.

Empathy is a problem-solver

When something goes wrong, a little empathy can help us keep a small problem from growing into a big lawsuit. Finger pointing, defensiveness and blaming others shows a lack of empathy and usually leads to dissatisfied clients.

In recent months, especially after the messy presidential election, it has become apparent that empathy is a skill that we all need to work on. We need to listen to people we do not agree with and try to understand them instead of ignoring anyone who doesn’t validate our own beliefs.

Being empathetic doesn’t mean agreeing with others. We can understand how someone feels without agreeing with them.

Sometimes it takes a little imagination to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. If we put ourselves in our clients’ shoes, we are more likely to do the right thing.

The first step in being empathetic is listening and attempting to understand. Listening is also the beginning for most of us as we get ready to work with new clients.

If we want to provide excellent service, we need to first understand what that looks like from our clients’ point of view.

Empathy is something you can practice. It is just one of the many soft skills that tend to get overlooked as agents work on lead capture and Snapchat strategies.

Teresa Boardman is a Realtor and broker/owner of Boardman Realty in St. Paul. She is also the founder of StPaulRealEstateBlog.com.

Email Teresa Boardman

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