I recently listened to an audio book by Chris Voss.  It was excellent.  Chris was a negotiation specialist with the FBI for a number of years and outlines the approach of the best practices negotiation that is the current standard for the FBI.  The surprising thing: empathy is the key to negotiation.  If you can understand what your counter-part understands, and communicate that with them you can collaborate, which is the core of negotiation.

I’m currently re-listening to Seth Godin’s “This is Marketing.”  The key to successful marketing is, you got it, empathy.  You need to understand the people you’re trying to lead.  That’s the “People like us…” part of “People like us do things like this.”  You can’t even start to lead until you learn to see.

I also work in advocacy.  Empathetic listening is one of the most healing and restorative things you can do for survivors.  Often it’s counter-intuitive as victims can be hard to understand, and can have stories that are disjointed.  You have to fight the instinct to try and ask the probing questions that would help you solve the problem, instead, give them space to sort their own thoughts and experiences.  Empathy isn’t the same as unquestioning belief, rather it’s the practice of believing the best intentions of the other so you can feel what the other person feels, and understand what they understand.

And it’s powerful.  More than ever, today people desperately want to be heard.  We want to know that our voices matter, and that someone, almost anyone will do, is listening.