The Secret Is Empathy

In every interaction that you have with another human, empathy is the secret to communicating well, building rapport, and having a positive impact on another person’s life.

You cannot have empathy for another unless you understand them. You cannot understand someone until you listen to them. In almost every conversation you have, you should be doing far more listening than speaking.

On occasion, you will be in the right position to do most of the talking. Teaching or public speaking are good examples. But the rules haven’t changed; empathy is the secret here, too.

When speaking to an audience, imagine them not as a panel of critics but as a group of people whose lives you can potentially improve in some small way. Speak with empathy for where they are coming from. When you view public speaking as an opportunity to help the audience, it becomes a lot less scary, and a whole lot more useful.

When you teach, seek to understand what it is like to lack the knowledge and years of experience you have. Instead of talking down to a person, elevate them. Find common ground. After all, you were once in their shoes.

Human interaction is not a performance or a contest. Those who make conversation a game of getting the better of another person have already lost. There is no better charm than true and earnest connection. And it cannot happen without empathy.