Do You Really Understand Empathy? | Brandon Voss

There is no question that the average person has some understanding of empathy. It would not be a surprise if your first instinctual reaction to the title of this article was “of course” or “yes I do.” Even if you weren’t sure, with technology today you could go to Google and look up empathy in a few seconds. This however doesn’t give a full understanding of what it means to be empathetic. What I really want to focus on is a true understanding of what it means to be empathetic and how to use empathy as a tool to improve your value, leverage and bargaining position in any negotiation. I don’t usually like to make guarantees, but for most I can promise by the end of this article you will have a better feel for what it means to really understand empathy.

The Black Swan Group also has its own definition of empathy which differs from what you will find in a dictionary. Black Swan defines empathy as not only the recognition of the counterparts world but also the vocalization of that recognition. In order to have a good grip on what empathy really is you need to be able to properly execute it and this is where we find that people fall short. Without the right training and reinforcement, people continue to use bad habits they have developed themselves consciously or even subconsciously picked up from others. The number one biggest mistake I see people making, high level executives included, is the saying “I understand” as a way to show empathy.

The use of “I understand” is an ineffective lazy shortcut way to attempt to use empathy. The first problem with the “I understand” phrase is that anyone who has had it used on them knows the person saying it is really saying “ok, stop, I get it, now be quiet so I can talk”. You know they don’t really get it which is why you keep circling around to the same issues ad nauseam. The second big problem is when you say “I understand” you take personal responsibility for what you say next. If you are wrong in what follows, it can have a detrimental effect on whatever ground you have covered so far or worse can negatively affect the relationship.

To properly execute the skill and reap the benefits of its power requires you to actually say the words that summarize their view of the world. This is even more effective when you know that their view holds you in a negative light because negativity is eminently predictable. Going through the effort it will take to fully summarize their position will take time and you might not even get it right the first try. Whether you are right or not, displaying a true attempt to understand will give you a tremendous amount of power in a negotiation and immediately sets a playing field for collaboration.

Empathy goes along with the whole idea of what we talk about in negotiation as “delaying to save time”. You are taking the time to focus on what the counterpart’s world looks like so that down the line you don’t have to circle back to the same issues. Now there are certain ways to continue to display empathy throughout the interaction and additional skills that when coupled with proper use of empathy that can truly make you an “ace in the hole” deal maker. That is what we do in our company. We teach and initiate exercises geared toward breaking bad communication habits and couple them with great skills for not only diagnosing your counterpart but engaging in the art of “letting them have your way”.

Learn More about BlackSwan

Four Reasons How Learning Mutual Benefit Negotiation Strategies Can Change Your World

Are you feeling underpaidundervalued, or invisible to the powers that be who, behind closed doors, decide who gets promoted and who gets a raise?

Maybe you’re fed up with the daily cuts of bias and injustices.

Or, worse yet, bullied silent by the fear of being disliked or called out as aggressive, angry… difficult.


I’ve been there. I know how you feel.

When I worked as a tech startup manager, I felt under-appreciated and stuck in the double bind of being a woman in a male-dominated industry.

I resented the gender wage gap but was also afraid of gender blowback. My stress was through the roof.

But some years ago, once I found a connection with She Negotiates, everything changed.

I stopped playing the victim game.

I stopped keeping my ambitions small for the benefit of no one – except to serve the voices in my head telling me to stay small, safe and sad (my definition of madness).

I stopped waiting for the powers that be to award me with raise and promotion without my asking.

So I asked for and got 25% increase in salary, promotion in title and an assistant.

Learning to negotiate for myself changed my world. Obviously, it also changed my career since I now work as a She Negotiates trainer and coach. But beyond that, learning to speak up, to ask powerful questions, to say no, to set clear boundaries and to express my value in the world changed me from the inside out.

That’s because underneath the mutual benefit negotiation tactics and strategies that we at She Negotiates teach is a principle, a stand that we take, that challenges common misconceptions about what it means to be an
ambitious woman negotiator.


Which is: That you can be an ambitious, brave AND collaborative negotiator. There is nothing wrong with you. 
You have what it takes to be a communicator who leads through problem-solving, value-creating conversations.


Not a greedy or selfish haggler. Not manipulative or merely transactional. But a leader who is bold, generous and transformational.  This is possible because the strategies and tactics that She Negotiates teach enables you to

  1. Speak truth to power so you can stop bias in its tracks and get you heard,
  2. Solve sticky interpersonal problems so you can build bridges instead of burning them,
  3. Create value for both sides of the table so you can get buy-in and their follow-through, and
  4. Enhance your reputation so you can signal your leadership potential as well as capacity for bigger, better-paying roles.

You can and should negotiate for a bigger paycheck that earns you more respect.


But it’s about more than that. It’s never just about the money.


It’s about you taking a giant leap forward closer to realizing your dreams of entrepreneurship, having a family, or making an impact in the world in a way that only you can.

And often that step starts with one ask, one conversation. So, would you like to learn how to negotiate, influence and lead in a way that is both authentic and powerful? If yes, I’d love for you to join me live in January 2018, when I’ll be leading one of our signature events: Strategic Conversations, an experiential learning workshop for ambitious women.


The training is five hours of hands-on learning, and I’ll be taking participants through

  • Three key principles of negotiation that demystify the art and science of negotiating,
  • Five key leadership practices that are essential for rising above the the ranks and busting bias,
  • Seven elements of collaborative negotiation that help you get past no and get to yes while improving relationships, and so much more.

The investment to attend is a fraction of what it would take to work with us one-on- one. It’s also an investment that pays back HUGE dividends in your future negotiations.


Some attendees apply the skills we teach and increase their job offers by $10K or $20K and more. What would be possible for you?


Seats are limited to 20 participants. This will be a great opportunity for you to practice and hone your skills in self-advocacy and negotiation so you can close your wage and leadership gap in 2018.


Hope to see you there!


Bio: Jamie Lee is a She Negotiates consultant, coach and a pragmatic negotiation geek
dedicated to helping ambitious women negotiate and lead with authentic power. Jamie
was born in South Korea, where negotiating was considered a part of daily life. She first
learned self-advocacy from the example of her mother who raised three daughters while
running a business by herself as an immigrant in America. Earlier in her career, she
negotiated on behalf of multi-million dollar enterprises and gained experience in business
negotiations as a hedge fund analyst and later as a tech startup manager.


Interested in learning the strategies and tactics of mutual benefit negotiation? If yes, then
join Jamie at WorkSocial on January 31, 2018. She will be leading hands-on workshop
Strategic Conversations: How to Influence, Negotiate and Lead. This will be 5 hours of
experiential learning, group coaching with individual feedback.


Sign up today!

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