How to Learn to Listen and Practice Empathy

One of the top requests we get from prospective personal branding clients here at Delightful is from executives wanting to be seen as thought leaders in their field.

They understandably want to build their personal brand around their expertise, but during the analysis phase of the framework we’ve designed, there’s often a huge gap between how often they broadcast and how often they’re intent on listening and showing empathy.

Learn to listen and practice empathy

The biggest misnomer when it comes to personal branding is that the focus should be all about you.

Yes, it’s your personal brand we’re trying to uncover and grow, but in order to make the best, most well-rounded impression on the people in your sphere, you need to practice the art of listening and being empathetic.

Whether online or in-person, growing your network is important if you’re going to amplify the message that you’re a go-to person in your field for information or advice. Too often, though, you run the risk of showing up on social networks or at events with an agenda that smacks of self-service, and after a while, that attitude wears thin and does not reflect well on you.

What professionals looking to position themselves well in their industry need to do well is strike a balance between talking about themselves, and asking questions of others. It’s human nature to talk about ourselves (especially in professional situations) because it makes us feel good. Whether we’re happy about ourselves at that particular moment in time or not, it feels good to vocalize whatever is on our mind.

If it feels good for you, then it will feel good for other people, right? So make sure you take an interest and ask questions.

Like any business, your goal here is to build up trust with people you come into contact with that are (or might become) customers or business contacts. By asking questions, you’re taking an interest, demonstrating empathy and showing you care. You’re signaling loud and clear that you don’t know everything (no one likes a know-it-all) and you are willing and open to new learning experiences.

It sounds so obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people in senior positions don’t understand this simple concept applies to them as much as their business.

When it comes to empathy, we’re talking about tweaking your listening skills so you don’t just hear what people are saying, but learn to understand from their perspective. This takes practice, but by asking more questions you’re creating a better lens through which to identify more closely what they are saying. If every business needs to learn the art of listening and being empathetic, then there’s no reason why your personal brand can’t reap similar benefits too.

So the next time you’re on LinkedIn or Twitter make sure you’re engaging and asking questions instead of just broadcasting your agenda. At the next conference or networking event, you attend in-person, try making a handful of people feel good by asking about them, their business, their successes, and concerns.

In order to have a well-rounded personal brand that makes the right impression, you need to strike the balance between what you know and what you have yet to learn.

Opening yourself up to curiosity and understanding might actually surprise you on your quest to quench the thirst generated by your professional purpose.

Remember to check back in a fortnight for the next installment in our series: How to Build a Personal Branding Strategy

And don’t forget to:

Check out our book now in paperback: Introduction to Personal Branding: 10 Steps Towards a New Professional You

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@MelCarson – Founder of Delightful

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