True Empathy Can Win the Day

 

A farmer had a litter of puppies for sale. As he was driving the last nail into his advertising yard sign, he felt a tug at his overalls. “Mister,” said a boy at his feet, “I want to buy a puppy.”

“Well,” said the farmer, “These puppies come from fine parents and cost lots of money. How much do you have?”

The boy dropped his head momentarily, then drew several coins from his pocket. “I don’t have much, but is this enough to take a look?”

The farmer paused reluctantly but before he could answer three puppies rolled out of the doghouse. One tiny, awkward pup hobbled behind. The boy’s eyes lit up. “I want that one,” he exclaimed, pointing to the runt. The man shook his head solemnly. “Son, that puppy will never be able to run and play like the others.”

The boy rolled up his trousers to reveal a steel brace running down both sides of one leg. “I do want that puppy. I don’t run too well myself, and he’ll need someone who understands him.”

That day the boy won the puppy because he moved the farmer’s heart. Why? Because empathy impacts people. Researchers define empathy as the ability to sense other people’s emotions and to imagine how they might be thinking or feeling. Empathy is essential to human interactions because it allows us to connect in authentic ways and to offer helpful words, comfort, or assistance. Empathy is essential in every human interaction but is especially significant for those in customer service.

Empathy Begins with Real Listening

Would you like to be more successful in minimizing difficult situations or by helping customers overcome their hesitations as you’re trying to make a sale?

All empathy begins with real listening. As you listen with empathy, ask questions like:

  • “How is this situation affecting you?”
  • “Can you tell me more about _____?”
  • “What do you think would be your ideal outcome here?”

As a person processes, take care not to interrupt. While you may not be equipped to address their concerns, asking empathetic questions can shift your focus to listen more effectively, opening new lines of communication and diffusing tension so everyone can move forward.

Empathy involves reflective listening, using phrases that demonstrate your understanding. Phrases that show customers you are taking customers seriously might include:

  • “I can understand how frustrating it is when . . .”
  • “I see this is very complicated/upsetting.”
  • “I’m sorry to hear that and I’ll do my best to help.”

Pair Compassion with Action

As you communicate compassion, be ready to follow your words with action.

Take ownership of a situation by following up immediately, by referring it to a superior, or by positively addressing both the person and the problem. Phrases like, “ok, we can fix this,” or “let’s get this sorted out right away,” will reassure customers you’re taking ownership of the problem.

Action-based empathy also means thinking outside the box for large-scale change. Erin Henkel, portfolio director at the IDEO global design and innovation company, says often positive innovation begins with empathy:

“Effective companies need employees who constantly imagine themselves in the customer’s shoes. As they make the customer’s problems their own, they are better able to meet expectations, make necessary changes, and to retain customer loyalty for another day.”

Being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes is a hallmark of intelligent leadership and of excellent teamwork. Work hard to grow empathy and you will open new lines of communication, create greater understanding, and help everyone achieve common goals.

 

 

 

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Use Self-Mailers to Boost Your Visibility

 

Looking to target prospects with confident, eye-catching designs?

Consider a self-mailer that you send through the U.S. Postal Service’s EDDM (Every Door Direct Mail) program. This cost-effective marketing solution helps you target individual zip codes or carrier routes for a significantly reduced cost.

What is a Self-Mailer?

A self-mailer is something that can be mailed without an envelope, including anything from a simple postcard to an elaborate booklet.

Self-mailers are a great medium for stunning photos and eye-catching graphics. While e-mail inboxes are currently overflowing, physical mailboxes are not. A splashy, bold design holds great potential to be seen and shared!

A superb self-mailer can have several advantages over envelope mailings:

1. Self-mailers cost less.

Self-mailers are simple: often, they have just one sheet of paper (no need to stuff envelopes or match the contents of your letter with its packaging). Postage can be cheaper for a self-mailer, especially when you use postcards or fold-over flyers.

2. Self-mailers are more likely to be seen, remembered, or shared.

While envelope mailings are typically opened and read by just one person, self-mailers are often passed along to others or laid in visible places like the kitchen counter. Coupons or event invitations are placed on the fridge or in strategic visible locations. The bold graphics and easy accessibility of self-mailers can help people remember your message long after it’s been sent.

3. Self-mailers help you connect with loyal customers.

Whether you’re promoting an event or sending product notifications, targeting previous customers can dramatically increase response rates. Self-mailers send a personal message in a vibrant, practical package.

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Self-mailers can be used as postcards offering discounts on home maintenance and repairs, as fold-over letters from community leaders, as fundraising pieces from non-profits, as brochures and pamphlets, or even for product inventory catalogs.

These flexible products bring a clean design, a clear message, and concrete results. Looking for EDDM tips or for full graphic design services for your mailer? We’ve got years of experience and we’re just a phone call away. Give us a call today!

 

 

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How to Chart Your New Future

Looking to grow personally or professionally, but not sure where to start?

Last week we examined the incredible benefits of lifelong learning. Increased cognitive function increases the health of the entire body, and continued education sparks social engagement (as we learn from and WITH others) that brings confidence and delight. Research suggests that people with strong social connections tend to be happier and live longer.

Whether you feel supported by your employer or not, here are four simple avenues that will enrich your life and help you grow:

  1. Stretch Yourself.

The first step in continued growth is to assess your buy-in.

Check out last week’s article for more detail on jump-starting your own motivation.

  1. Ask Others to Stretch You.

Baseball legend Yogi Berra commented, “If you don’t know where you are going, you will wind up somewhere else.”

Perhaps one of our greatest obstacles is our lack of perspective. In the daily grind, it can be hard to identify or address our weaknesses and our virtues. Consider a coach or mentor to help you assess where you’re at and chart intentional steps toward positive change.

Can you find someone in your company who might have coffee with you on a monthly or quarterly basis? Is there someone in your field or professional network (even LinkedIn) who might fill this strategic role? Is it worth contracting a life or career coach (or even an organizational consultant) to help you maximize potential? Surgeon Atul Gawande makes this compelling argument:

“Élite performers, researchers say, must engage in ‘deliberate practice’—sustained, mindful efforts to develop the full range of abilities that success requires. You have to work at what you’re not good at. In theory, people can do this themselves. But most people do not know where to start or how to proceed. Expertise, as the formula goes, requires going from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence to conscious competence and finally to unconscious competence. The coach provides the outside eyes and ears and makes you aware of where you’re falling short. This is tricky. Human beings resist exposure and critique; our brains are well defended. So, coaches use a variety of approaches—showing what other, respected colleagues do, for instance, or reviewing videos of the subject’s performance. The most common, however, is just conversation.”

  1. Read.

Reading is one of life’s simple pleasures and a commonly overlooked asset.

Reading broadens perspective, improves memory, and dramatically reduces stress. Make a point to read professional development articles, books on business topics, or personal development pieces that will sharpen your skills or spark curiosity. An energized mind is a productive mind, so dedicate time each week to read or listen to audio books (maybe as you sit in traffic) and you won’t regret it!

  1. Pursue Life-Giving Conversations. Most people are experiential learners, growing confidence and skills as they participate rather than passively consuming.

One way to proactively engage your mind is through conversations, like book clubs, professional networks, or even loose business collaborations. Where are you connected or how could you grow in this area? Surround yourself with like-minded peers through opportunities like 1 Million Cups, TED Talks, MeetUp groups, and more. If nothing else, look for volunteer opportunities and connect with people on a casual level. Make friends, spark ideas, and find financial and professional support in areas you may never have considered.

Ready to shake off that slump or add spring to your step today? Let these adjustments chart a new course for growth in your career and future. Every moment is valuable and so is your potential. Steward it well and keep growing for life!

 

 

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5 Ways to Skillfully Handle Criticism With a Smile Instead of a Frown

This work is sloppy and does not meet the needs of the company. You’ll have to completely rework it.”

“Is this all you’ve gotten done for today? You’re going to have to step up your pace.”

“Why didn’t you follow the instructions I gave you? This is terrible work.”

“I liked your old hairstyle better.”

Criticism, no matter how delicately someone gives it to you, hurts.

Being criticized makes us feel worthless, painfully vulnerable to our own negative thoughts and unsure of our abilities. Some inexperienced managers think criticizing their employees will incentivize them to work faster and harder but, of course, we know this tactic is the absolutely wrong way to motivate employees.

Scientists speculate there is something instinctual, or innate, about our adverse reaction to even mild criticism. Just like the human body is hard-wired to instantly move into a “fight or flight” state when confronted by danger, our psychological self (psyche) reacts to criticism defensively. In other words, being physically struck closely parallels being verbally “struck.” Our heart and breathing rate increases and we may start perspiring as our internal temperature rises. Depending on the type and level of criticism we hear about ourselves, some people tremble, feel extremely anxious, and may even start crying.

How to Give Criticism Positively

Before you criticize a family member, friend or fellow worker, stop and think about how you could rephrase what you are going to say to sound more like constructive criticism.

Examples of constructive criticism include:

  • (When someone fails to complete a project on time): Next time we have a project to work on, we’ll make sure there are enough resources and time for you to finish it as planned. In fact, perhaps we can schedule the project in advance so you are not inundated with work?
  • (When someone has been “slacking” in their work): You’ve done a great job reaching several goals lately. Nobody can achieve every goal they set for themselves so don’t let this affect your sense of accomplishment. Maybe your goals are a little too aggressive?
  • (When someone isn’t contributing to a group effort): I’ve noticed you haven’t wanted to take an initiative lately. I would really like to see you take a leadership position because I think you have the talent and skills to be successful.

5 Ways to Handle Criticism Positively

  1. Objectify Yourself

As soon as you realize you are being criticized unconstructively, step away from your emotions by imagining yourself as a life-size cardboard cutout.

Wait until the person criticizing you leaves before allowing yourself to think about what they said. Consider who criticized, what they criticized you about, and whether it was actually warranted. Remember that people who are criticized are usually doing something new, different, and possibly daring.

  1. Don’t Cross Your Arms

Adopting a defensive posture may provoke the criticizer into extending their critique of you.

Simply stand with your arms at your sides, nod, and show that you are listening.

  1. Learn from Criticism

Is there a grain of truth in the criticism you received?

Don’t let strong emotions cloud your ability to judge truths about yourself. Many of us say or do things that are not in our best interest but fail to realize our error.

  1. Get Feedback from a Friend

Tell a trusted friend about the criticism you received.

Getting another opinion can help mitigate the negative feelings you experience from a criticism.

  1. You Control Your Emotions and Thoughts

Nobody is in control of what you think or feel.

The way you think and feel about criticism is all up to you, not the person who criticized you.

“Criticism is something you can avoid by saying nothing,
being nothing, and doing nothing.”
~Aristotle

 

 

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