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Got Empathy?

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At the National Association of Realtors Convention in Orlando several years ago, Daniel Pink (author of “A Whole New Mind”) had the members of his audience do an experiment. We placed our index finger on our foreheads and drew a capital letter E. Whether we drew it to read ourselves or to be read by others said something about our ability to empathize with others. Two-thirds of the audience showed the E to someone else. Pink explained that while we seemed an empathetic crew, interestingly, the higher people go on the corporate ladder, the more we see them draw the E to themselves.

Today, in my Senior Real Estate Specialist course, we did the same exercise. In this case my entire class drew the E so that I could see it.  I found this encouraging. The SRES course is about, among other things, an agent’s ability to understand the challenges of life’s transitions for our 50+ crowd. 
The “study” of the over 50 market examines a HUGE group, with a wide range of abilities, challenges and issues. What matters to you when you are 55 is considerably different than at the age of 80. Even with the average age of a Realtor being around 54, a large chronological gap exists between the average person in our business and the elderly population. Thus, the importance of this particular course.

To my fascination, the youngest person I have had in the SRES course so far is around 45. And while I have yet to question a 25 year old as to why they would or would not invest in a class focusing on the Senior population, I anticipate that it simply is not on their radar at this point in their lives. A 55 year old agent, on the other hand, not only is more likely to have a client in the age group but also (from my classroom experience) is often on a curiosity quest – anticipating what is yet to come. The ability to relate comes from, well…. an ability to relate.

In his book, Dan says this about empathy “In a world of ubiquitous information and advanced analytic tools, logic alone won’t do. What will distinguish those who thrive will be their ability to understand what makes their fellow woman or man tick, to forge relationships, and to care for others.”
Do you relate? Can you walk a mile in someone elses shoes? How’s your empathy quotient? Try the E test and see how you do.