If any time in history has called upon us to be empathetic, it’s been this year. Not to be confused with sympathy, empathy is the ability to understand others’ feelings, perspectives and experiences.

Empathy is critical for establishing relationships and behaving compassionately. It helps you tune into not only how others feel but also what might be informing their beliefs, feelings and decisions. Empathy provides you with context and understanding to better communicate with other individuals and come to mutually beneficial outcomes. 

As real estate professionals and leaders, exuding empathy is a core part of our job description. Our clients and our employees want to be seen and heard, and exuding empathy helps garner trust in those relationships. Although some people are inherently more empathetic than others, the good news is empathy is a skill that you can develop. 

If you want to serve your clients and team better, here are three ways to develop empathy

1. Understand yourself first 

Self-awareness is one of the most critical components of success. Doing a deep dive into your inner world is hard — you never really know what you will uncover or discover until you get in there. But that’s why it’s so important. You can’t begin to empathize with others or understand them if you don’t truly understand yourself first. 

A quick way to get started on this self-exploration is through behavior and personality profiles. Are they always accurate? No. But they give you a framework to create an internal dialogue about what is true, what’s not and what makes you tick.

The assessments can illuminate how you like to communicate, your triggers, strengths and weaknesses, how you show up under stress, and how you show up at your best. Some of my preferred assessments include the DISC Profile, 16 Personalities, CliftonStrengths and the Enneagram. 

Getting to know yourself and building a better relationship with yourself is a continuous practice. When you think you’ve got it figured out, there is another layer to uncover. But that’s the beauty of self-leadership and personal growth. It’s damn hard, but you’ll never get bored! 

Some daily practices to better understand yourself include journaling, meditation, sitting in silence, walking, breathing exercises, yoga, other forms of exercise or just being in nature. The trick here is to be with yourself long enough (without technological distractions or outside influences) to get to the core of who you are. 

Once you have started to live from this place of authenticity and self-awareness, you have built a foundation from which you can exude empathy for those around you. 

2. Be present, and serve the moment 

When working with clients, co-broke agents, or team members (heck, even your family and friends), we have to approach each conversation from a place of centeredness and clarity. We don’t want to be bringing the baggage (positive or negative) from one conversation to the next.  

The best way to exude empathy is to check your energy at the proverbial door before your next call, meeting or even before you arrive home at night. You don’t know what the other person has been dealing with all day before your call. 

By clearing your energy and getting centered before your next meeting, you can meet that client or team member where they are and be with them in that moment.  

One of the greatest gifts you can give another human is your time and attention. Clear the distractions (your pinging text messages, email notifications on your Apple Watch, team members or family members interrupting you, your running list of things to do, or your rehashing of a conversation you just had).

Let me repeat it: Clear the distractions. Being empathetic means being with the person and being nowhere else (physically, mentally, emotionally or energetically).  

A quick exercise for recentering yourself and getting ready to be present is a method I call “3-2-1 — relax.” Just take a deep breath, and on the exhale, say to yourself, “3-2-1 — relax.” 

As you say this and exhale, lower your shoulders and feel your entire body sink and relax into itself. You might need to do this a few times to recenter yourself, and that’s OK. It’s a quick, easy-to-use tool when transitioning in between calls and meetings.  

When you are fully present, the other person feels it. You are better able to listen and understand their story. You are better able to solve problems and serve the moment and person in front of you. 

3. Come from a place of curiosity, not judgment 

One of the best ways to exude empathy is to approach each conversation and interaction with curiosity and without judgment. Now is a great time to use your imagination. Put yourself in that individual’s shoes. Think about what could be going on in the other person’s life, along with their culture, context, beliefs, etc. 

We don’t honestly know what others are dealing with daily. Everyone has their stuff (and not everyone is as intentional about personal growth and developing their empathy as you are). 

Another way to work on your empathy is being conscious of when your ego comes out to play. Many times we can be less than empathetic because we want to “win” or be right. Let that go.

Is it more important to be right, or is it more critical to converse with someone compassionately, ask great questions, and come to a mutually beneficial solution? I would vote for the latter. 

Developing your empathy requires some intentional inner work, for sure! However, when you can let go of the outcome and not allow a conversation, a decision, a problem, or a success effect who you are at the core, you will be able to exude empathy in every moment.

Understand yourself first, be present and serve the moment, and come from curiosity rather than judgment, and you’ll be connecting with others at a much deeper and more meaningful level in no time. 

Adam Hergenrother is the founder and CEO of Adam Hergenrother Companies, the author of The Founder & The Force Multiplier, and the host of the podcast, Business Meets Spirituality. Learn more about Adam’s holistic approach to business here.

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