two people touching hands
Everyone can benefit from empathy communication coaching, even those who are relatively empathic communicators to start. PHOTO: Rémi Walle

Empathy is important — and few people would argue the point.

Decades of research have shown empathic communicators are more likely to have satisfying interactions and achieve their interactional goals, such as selling their products, delivering a better service experience or helping their patients.

There's a popular notion empathic communication comes more naturally for some people than others. While it’s true that there is individual variation, the assumption we cannot improve our ability to communicate empathically is incorrect.

Too Little Empathy

Through training and feedback we can significantly improve our ability to accurately interpret nonverbal behaviors. We can become better at reading other’s nonverbal behaviors. We can also learn to control our own nonverbal behaviors to convey empathy during an interaction.

Most people think that they are pretty good at communication, particularly nonverbal communication.

But relatively little feedback is given when we miss a nonverbal signal. And study after study shows we are actually pretty poor when it comes to self-assessing our empathic communication skills.

However, recent research suggests everyone can benefit from empathy communication coaching, even those who are relatively empathic communicators to begin with. Providing real-time feedback can enable communicators to adapt their nonverbal behaviors to increase empathy, and improve communication outcomes.

Applying Machine Learning, AI

The latest machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) applications can systematically apply proven behavioral science to analyze non-verbal behaviors and provide real-time feedback to people to augment their emotional intelligence and help communicate in an empathetic manner.

The technologies can make individuals aware of their own behaviors as well as alert them to how they are perceived by other parties.

While traditional technologies largely focused on the words people speak, more recent technologies have moved beyond just words to also analyze nonverbal speaking behaviors such as tone, pace, tension, consistency, mimicry and vocal effort to ensure more human interactions.

While never replacing human-to-human communication, AI can also help machines interpret the subtleties of emotion within voice and respond in a far more human centric way.

These technologies can alert people and machines to missed cues within conversations providing instruction as to how they can dynamically adjust their communication style to better match the other party.

Changing the Call Center

One environment in which these technologies are especially applicable is large-scale call center operations where phone professionals are required to have compassionate conversations with an average of thirty or more customers each day. 

In the moment they must carefully interpret the customer’s cues and respond in an empathetic manner without the benefit of a previous relationship and can only base their interaction style on the insights contained in a voice conversation. 

The latest technology can now predictively analyze communication patterns across large populations of conversations and determine the most effective communication techniques that will lead to better overall conversation outcomes, such as higher performing employees, more engaged patients and happier customers.

These “discovered” patterns are automatically fed back into machine learning algorithms to continuously improve conversations.

Better Communication, Higher Performance

Having the ability to harness non-verbal cues to better communicate is not only key in improving our interactions with one another, it’s also a critical skill and key factor in creating higher performing organizations.

Being able to influence an interaction so that it leaves each party with a good emotional experience is an indispensable skill that affects our personal lives and work performance.

Empathy is infectious; when other compassionate people surround people it raises the satisfaction level and improves performance of the individual and the group.

Technology will enable companies to better foster emotional intelligence, communicate more empathically and ultimately lead to happier customers and higher performing employees.

Humans have been communicating with one another for millions of years.  While the vocabulary we use is constantly evolving the fundamentals of nonverbal communication and the power of empathy and emotional intelligence has remained consistent.

Increasingly Complex Communications

In the recent past the communication picture has become more complex, not only are humans communicating with one another, but we are also interacting on a daily basis with the machines and devices that surround us. 

Advancements in technology can now enable us to communicate with one another and machines in a far better way.  We can use the power of AI to better detect the emotional cues contained in conversations and through real-time feedback interact in a far more effective way. 

Empowered by a whole new dimension of behavioral insight the machines around us can more accurately interpret our intentions and respond to more complex requests with more appropriate and helpful actions. 

There is no debate more empathetic interactions lead to better outcomes, with the aid of modern technology we can evolve our communication ensuring higher performing humans and machines.