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Top-Shelf Tip No. 6:

"Empathy is one of our greatest tools of business that is most underused."

Daniel Lubetzky

Seven Skills To Shine In Your Interpersonal Relationships

How well do you understand how other people feel? Those with high levels of empathy tend to be better entrepreneurs and leaders. If you don't rate yourself as an empathetic person, take heart. Harvard research reveals that empathy is a trait that can be taught and developed.

In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, keynote speaker and bestselling author Carmine Gallo explores research from Harvard psychologist Helen Riess to reveal seven key empathy traits to make stronger connections with clients, colleagues and peers. Here are the seven skills you need to develop E.M.P.A.T.H.Y.

E – Eye Contact
You've heard the phrase, "the eyes are the window to the soul." Riess recommends holding face-to-face meetings as often as possible so you can make eye contact and pick up on nonverbal nuances you can't notice over the phone or via e-mail. Riess also suggests that when you meet someone for the first time, you should maintain eye contact until you notice the person's eye color.

M – Muscles For Facial Expression
Whether you're on a sales call with a potential new client or you're meeting with your team, pay attention to the muscles in others' faces. Face muscles rarely lie. You can tell when someone is offering a fake smile by simply turning up their lips or when they exhibit a "Duchenne smile," one that radiates true happiness.

P – Posture
Consider your posture when you enter a room or when you sit down to a meeting. Are you slouching or do you have a straight back? When you sit tall, Riess says you demonstrate happiness or confidence. Riess makes a point to convey respect and authority by sitting down with patients, facing them, leaning forward and sitting at eye level.

A – Affect
Affect is the scientific term for emotion. In a conversation, note the other person's emotional state. Is he or she sad, angry, confused or excited? You can't expect to communicate effectively if you don't understand where someone stands emotionally.

T – Tone Of Voice
It's not always what you say, but how you say it. Riess explains that linguists use "prosody" to refer to a person's vocal pace, rhythm and pitch. Prosody adds emotion to the spoken word that goes beyond the singular meaning of each word. When you take a soothing tone, you'll likely have a conversation with a better outcome.

H – Hearing The Whole Person
Riess notes that empathetic listening means paying attention to the other person, identifying his or her emotions and responding with compassion and without judgment. If you're talking with someone and emotions start to run high, put the conversation on pause. Don't interrupt and don't match the other person's emotions. When you take a step back, you can often deescalate a heated conversation.

Y – Your Response
Always be mindful of your emotions as they can rub off on others. If you're upset, insecure or afraid, those emotions will leave an impression on others and impact the quality of your communication. Pay attention to how you feel and how you respond to others because it signals how people around you will feel.

If you want to improve your interpersonal relationships, reflect on how to develop your empathy. Focus on each of the skills above to become a more empathetic person in the year ahead.

Source: Carmine Gallo is a keynote speaker, communication adviser and author of international bestsellers including Talk Like TED and The Storyteller's Secret. Gallo is a Harvard instructor and communication coach for leaders at the world's most admired brands. He has been featured in The Wall Street Journal and on CNBC, MSNBC and ABC's 20/20.

Compiled by Audrey Sellers