Can empathy make you smarter?

Research has found that the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person can actually increase your brainpower.

But, only if you use it.

So, if you’re in sales, you have two essential motivations to be empathetic:

  1. Empathy is an avenue to connect with your buyer
  2. It gives your brain a boost and makes you smarter

Which is great news, because you’re gonna need it.

In his June 2015 Fortune Magazine article titled “Humans are Underrated”, the author Geoff Colvin quoted an expert as saying, “Empathy is the critical 21st-century skill.”

As selling increasingly becomes automated, as AI and machine learning play larger roles in the interactions between buyers and sellers, the value of the human element in sales will increase.

Why? Because decisions have consequences for the people that make them and machines don’t have empathy.

In other words, mitigating risk is still a primary driver of decision making and buyers want the opinions of another human to validate their choices. Not a machine. (Research into medical decision making has borne this out.)

What this means in the age of AI is that the ability to authentically connect with another human being, to be empathetic to their wishes and desires, will increasingly become more highly valued by buyers (and employers.)

This creates both a problem and an opportunity.

In his article, Colvin discussed the work of researchers who “analyzed 72 studies that measured empathy in about 14,000 college students since 1979 and found a broad decline over time.”

So, while being empathetic can make you smarter and more successful in sales, researchers are continuing to find that each successive generation of seller, starting with boomers and down through millennials, actually possess less of it.

This is the problem. As the demand for empathy grows, there’s less of it to be found.

Here’s the opportunity. Developing and improving your ability to be empathetic will give you a competitive edge in your career.

This is especially true as more stakeholders are drawn into the decision-making process and tests your ability to understand and navigate the perspectives of a diverse group with diverse motivations.