In the first segment of this three-part lesson, we looked at the multitude of benefits of being empathetic in our communication as well as the harrowing consequences of failing to do so. In the second segment, we examined the first component of Empathy, namely Empathetic Listening. We now move on to the third segment and explore the second component of Empathy, namely Empathetic First Responses.
Take the lesson to learn how to formulate an empathetic first response and remember to take the quiz at the end of the lesson too.
This lesson is in video format.
We recognise that some participants prefer reading to listening. If you are one of them, then you can access a transcript of the lesson by clicking on the View Transcript button below the video.
As we pointed out in the previous lesson, only when empathetic listening has been practised, or at least attempted, should one consider verbally responding to the other person.
That said, framing a verbal response is no walk in the park. To prove this point, consider this conversation between a customer and a call-centre representative of a water treatment company.
Customer: (Gets through to a representative): Hello. You have to do something. Please. The drain in front of my house has backed up. There’s raw sewage spilling all over the street.
Service Representative: May I have your postcode, please?
Customer: The whole place is stinking to the high heavens. It’s a full-blown health hazard. There are kids living here.
Service Representative: Okay, no worries. What’s your post c…?
Customer: No worries? Did you just say ‘no worries’? It’s just the opposite, I assure you. Did you hear anything I said? I’m late for work as it is because I can’t very well wade in sewage to cross the street, can I? And the kids are miserable because of the stench. This isn’t my problem, to begin with; it’s yours. And here I am on the phone with you sorting it out for you.
Service Representative: Calm down, please. I need…
Customer: Don’t tell me to calm down, tell me…you know what?…Never mind. Can I speak to your supervisor, please?
What was wrong with the service representative’s first response?
In a nutshell, the service representative’s response lacked empathy, even though the service representative meant to help the customer in the given situation.
An empathetic first response is the first thing that you say to what the speaker has communicated. It is an acknowledgement of the speaker’s emotion or thought and conveys that you have understood them.
Empathetic First Responses facilitate better relationships and conflict resolution. In contrast, a lack of empathy in first responses translates to apathy and mundane, meaningless transactions at best, or unnecessary escalations at worst.