It’s a common misconception that empathy and sympathy are one in the same. While they convey the general idea of comforting another person, there are important differences.

The person answering your law firm’s phone – often taking calls from emotional callers looking for a lawyer – should know the difference.

While both can be useful, you’ll soon see that empathy gets you a lot further than the, “Sorry you’re in a bad situation,” message that sympathy can convey.

Sympathy Makes a Bad Situation Worse; Empathy Improves It

Sympathy is when you are sorry to hear about somebody’s misfortune and you have compassion for them, but you don’t really feel those emotions yourself. Empathy is when you feel those feelings.

While sympathy is a nice gesture, attempts at sympathy may ring hollow in some cases. Simply saying you’re sorry to hear of somebody’s terrible accident can feel a little cold and standoffish. Telling somebody to “look at the bright side,” can make some people feel like you aren’t fully understanding their problem.

Applying empathy, however, is an opportunity to make the person feel at ease with working with your law firm. When your phone operator empathizes with the caller and truly feels those emotions, they’re reassuring the caller that they’re not alone in their struggles and there are people (like your law firm staff) who know what they’re going through and know how to help.

Empathy Just Sounds Better

Imagine a person calling your law firm for the first time telling you she just lost her father during a routine colonoscopy surgery because something went wrong with the anesthesia. The person answering the phone can respond with empathy or sympathy, and it may sound something like the following.

Sympathy: “I’m so sorry to hear that. At least he went peacefully. So, let’s start by getting your full name and contact information…”

Empathy: “My sincere condolences. I understand what you’re going through. Our law firm has handled similar medical malpractice claims and they never get easier. I’m sure you’re going through a lot right now. Are you comfortable with answering some questions about the incident over the phone or would you rather set up an in-person meeting?”

The latter example gives the caller time to reflect on their current emotional state and decide how they want to proceed with the intake process. It also conveys that the person on the other end of the line understands the emotional turmoil most victims of medical malpractice go through when looking for help.

Make Sure Your Phone Operators Answer Properly

There’s no room for false sympathy or misdirected empathy when it comes to the initial intake call. You either hit or miss when it comes time to emotionally connect with the client, and working with Alert Communications is a great way to improve the number of hits.

Let our trained staff answer your phones and never miss an emotional cue. Our Intake Specialists are trained on proper etiquette, know the difference between empathy and sympathy, and can utilize a variety of scripts to handle any situation you can imagine. To get started, fill out our contact form or give us a call at 844-694-6828.