Empathy is the ability to walk in someone else’s shoes. This exercise of imagination and emotion triggered lots of memories from my personal career last Friday, in the first day of the Coaching Summer School 2012.

Alan Seale, transformational coach, asked the participants to bring on some challenges and his promise was that we could work on them if we get to feel the client's energy from his own shoes.

This was happening in a learning context, using deliberate practice. We followed the principles from he last year's edition of summer school, when we practiced on how one can listen to a problem without focusing on the solution.

This is a pivotal moment in any human interaction, whether you are a consultant, salesman or coach. And the way it is handled will influence the outcome.

In a way, this is specific for our time. While the problem-solving path was ruling in the Information Age, detachment and the ability to step back should are appreciated now.

We are now in a Transformation Age, in which feelings and social interactions are different, empathy is not a stand-alone aptitude, but rather an essential part of designing relationships.

Last year, Lisa Bloom explained the power of story telling and this is related to empathy as well: stories are pathways to empathy.

But why is it so important to be empathic?

Well, because this is the main asset of a human professional, this is the distinction between a coach and a computer assessment, for example.

Any participant in a seminar or project will report the difference and this is the area where you can add value through your empathy.

Here’s an anecdote: I recently watched a consultant from a major Romanian training company describig their services for a newly developed medical clinics, recognizing the old problem solving slang: "our clients' need is illness!!!" He went on and explained how they offer some modules of training for physicians in what looked like a customer service gig.

In other words, when a patient comes in with a PROBLEM, instead of understanding the meaning of it, the training supplier tries to solve it with a customer service approach.

The communication process of a physician is identified in a wrong way as the root cause of the problem. No patient comes with a need for communicating. Basically, what he wants is to be listened and treated well.

Maximizing profits by offering meaningless training solutions is good for the seller, but it will never be appreciated by the client, in this case the medical clinic.

How can you work through in this context? It is more a case of understanding body language, voice, intonation, facial expression.

This is a separate way of working with professionals, considering that they’re already trained in diagnosing and have extended knowledge that can be leveraged.

This power tool of empathy needs to be mastered in today’s environment by professionals who need attunement in client’s context for being able to transform any problem in a meaning and at the end to advance in that relationship.

Author's Bio: 

Serban is a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) based in Bucharest, Romania. He organizes Coaching Summer School and the local ICF annual conference.