I’ve been doing a lot of web-based training lately for Casino Hosts and I have been reminded why I so enjoy working with Player Development professionals! They show up on time for their appointments, they welcome me with a happy greeting, and they work hard at staying upbeat and energetic in their tone and attitude. What’s not to like?
I’ve also become fascinated by the difference between Empathy and Sympathy.
There is no way for a Player Development professional to build relationships with a diverse set of casino guests without consistently employing a lot of empathy.
What is Empathy? In short, having empathy means you can understand how others feel.
The Empathetic Host is focused on really understanding the guest’s situation, attitude, and behaviors.
This can be done in a number of ways and they all involve close observation and an open mind. There are 5 key skills and they can all be improved with practice.
- What is the body language of the guest? What can you deduce from the way they walk, the way they gesture, and the way the stand in front of you?
- What is the facial expression of the guest? What can you tell from the shape of their mouth, and the position of their eyebrows?
- How do they sound? What is their tone, the speed of their speech, the volume of their voice?
- What are they really saying? Behind their choice of words, what message are they really trying to send to you?
- And finally, what can you learn by asking open-ended questions? (An open-ended question, such as, ‘Why are you so disappointed?’, can lead to many answers. A closed question, such as ‘Do you want a comp?’, will only lead to one of two answers, Yes or No. Okay! It will always lead to Yes!)
My point is that Empathy, the ability to understand the other person, can be constantly improved upon, by continuing to sharpen our skills in interpreting body language, reading facial expressions, listening for tone, probing for underlying issues, and asking open-ended questions.
Of course, for a Player Development professional, these skills also have to be refined over time to be able to understand people from other cultures, from other backgrounds, from different age groups. This is one of the challenges for a Casino Host when they move cross-country into a different culture, or into a very different Property where the guests have different expectations.
Sympathy, by comparison, means feeling compassion, sorrow, or pity.
If my guest is angry because they showed up for the Ham Giveaway Promotion and there is nothing left, then I can have complete empathy but not necessarily sympathy. After asking some open questions, I can realize that they left home too late and they are mad at themselves, but that they want to express themselves as frustrated at the Casino. With this empathy, I can decide on my approach. And without sympathy, without actually feeling sorry for them, I can still use my professional face and demeanor to handle the situation.
If you think about it, having a Big Heart and being Sympathetic to your guests, could lead to your emotions clouding your judgement, let alone to you crossing the invisible line and befriending your players.
I believe that Empathy is the key to successfully developing meaningful relationships with your coded players. And, constantly improving your skills of insight, will lead to more Empathy in dealing with fellow Hosts, working across departments within the Casino, and probably to a promotion because Empathy is key to being a successful Manager.
In conclusion! Empathy means you understand what they are feeling; and Sympathy means your own mood changes and responds to theirs.
I suggest that you constantly refine your ability to be Empathetic and double-check any impulse to be Sympathetic.
Not that it is bad to care but, as a professional, you are in the business of consistency and your emotional reaction (positive or negative!) may lead you to react differently to different people. And that always leads to trouble. So! Use all of your skills to understand but keep your heart in check, and act from your head.