How to Talk to Anyone: The Empathy Equation

Our world is diverse and expansive; more than 7 billion people live with different life experiences, worldviews, strengths, and preferences.

When everyone has such a unique way of thinking, behaving, and communicating, it can be hard to know the best way to talk with them. How can you know how to talk to people in a way they enjoy or prefer?

How To Talk To People

At Crystal, we have an approach to this called the Empathy Equation. Generally speaking, it looks like this:

WHAT + WHY + HOW

This “equation” is a simple way to set yourself up for success when talking to anyone. To utilize the Empathy Equation, you first need to identify three key things before you talk with people:

  • WHAT they want from the interaction.

  • WHY they want it.

  • HOW they want to interact. 

For example, if I’m facing a major conflict with my boss, the future of my career and working relationship with them may depend on the conversation going smoothly and communication being well thought-out. It might not be the most comfortable discussion, but if I consider the Empathy Equation beforehand, I can go in much more confident we’ll be able to work through our problem:

    • WHAT = My boss wants to feel heard and respected, even when we disagree on certain issues.
    • WHY = They place a lot of value in loyalty and appreciation, since they have worked hard to get where they are today and care about what others think of them.
    • HOW = My boss is most comfortable in face-to-face, intentional discussion, so I should set aside a time to sit down and talk through the problems we’re having.

To better understand how the Empathy Equation works, we should talk more about personality.

Introducing DISC

At Crystal, we use a framework called DISC to better understand individual personalities. This classifies personalities into a few categories we refer to as D (dominance), I (influence), S (steadiness), and C (conscientiousness). By categorizing personalities in this way, we can understand how to talk with people in a way that helps them understand and relate to us. For example, an S-type (supportive and people-oriented) is unlikely to appreciate a data-focused, impersonal conversation. They may become bored or frustrated, missing the point of the discussion entirely. On the other hand, a C-type (analytical and questioning), would probably appreciate a discussion that focuses on specific, concrete facts and avoids involving personal feelings. To read more about DISC types, visit our Personality Hub.

Personality AI to Help

The Empathy Equation is great for understanding how to talk with anyone, but it can’t work unless you know a bit about their personality. If the Empathy Equation is the engine for understanding and connecting with anyone, personality information is the fuel. 

Knowing someone’s decision-making process can tell you a lot about what they want. 

Knowing someone’s core motivations helps you understand why they want it.  

Knowing someone’s communication style tells you how to personalize your message in a way that captures their attention and drives them to action. 

By using Crystal’s personality insights, offered through personality profiles or our Chrome Extension, you can have the information you need to utilize the equation. 

Example

To better illustrate how personality insights and the Empathy Equation can really help you talk with anyone, let’s explore a real-world example. Say you’re a teacher at a public middle school, preparing to meet with your boss, Anna, to ask for a 5% pay raise. Through personality insights, you know that Anna is a Supporter (S), which means she seeks consistent, predictable relationships and enjoys gentle communication.

Let's work through the Empathy Equation to see how to talk with Anna.

WHAT

Anna probably wants: 

  • Consistent, trusting relationships with the members of her team. 
  • Predictable, positive results illustrated by comments from parents, state-mandated tests, etc.
  • A long-term commitment from you and for you to help coach or develop other teachers. 

WHY

As a Supporter (S), Anna tends to be motivated by: 

  • Having a higher employee retention rate than other leaders in the state school systems. 
  • Creating a warm, welcoming environment for herself and her team. 
  • Making sure her colleagues feel supported, heard, and appreciated.  

HOW

When you meet with Anna, you should: 

  • Use an approachable, personable, and warm demeanor. 
  • Take time to engage in small talk before getting into your raise request. 
  • Emphasize your long-term commitment to the school. 

Here are some phrases you could potentially use:

  • I sincerely value the fairness and loyalty that you and the school have shown to my development and personal growth.  
  • I want to be in this for the long haul and give you security that I am not going anywhere. 
  • Is there a process you would like me to follow for a request like this?
  • How have you looked at pay increases in the past, and what could I do to make you feel comfortable with it?
  • You can let me know what you decide after you have had some time to think about it. 

Unlike Captains or Motivators, Supporters do not usually make decisions quickly. They will likely need to think through their decision before coming to an official answer. At the end of your meeting with Anna, it would likely be unwise to apply pressure for a decision on the spot. Instead, focus on respectfully following up about your request in the coming days. 

When you communicate empathetically with Anna, she’s more likely to feel supported by you and trust you enough to invest financially in your future at the school.

How To Talk To Anyone

We’re past the days of “treat others the way you want to be treated”. Instead, talk to people in a way they appreciate. Ultimately, that’s what personality insights are all about-understanding each other and learning to be more empathetic. By communicating with others in an empathetic, mutually beneficial way, you can avoid causing unnecessary stress or missing out on important opportunities.

You can learn more about talking to anyone by creating a free account and discovering your own personality type!

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and what comes naturally to you?

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