These are the 10 Steps that will Unlock Your True Potential
What is the connection that brings a marketer and a consumer together? What generates loyalty in an employer and employee relationship? The answer lies in the crucial understanding among people which is empathy.
According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, the definition of empathy is “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also: the capacity for this”.
Businesses are known to be all about making money but to sustain long term the humane connection is necessary. Interestingly in the marketing world the more digital marketing becomes, the more the compassion will be needed. Empathy satisfies the core concept of a business, which is all about fulfilling a need of people. Empathy is needed to understand and better serve that need.
Most people believe that empathy is about treating others the way you want to be treated. There is more to this than the simple phenomena. Others might not want to be treated the way we treat ourselves. Each person is a unique individual and we cannot predict what the different norms of different people are. What it essentially boils down to is what we can do to treat and serve others better. For the most part we can show kindness as that is what most people innately desire. Creativity and design thinking also comes from being empathetic. In a business, the product developers and marketers cannot stop at what they think is good, it is important to predict other’s needs and preferences to serve them better.
For businesses and individuals investing in empathy yields to the greatest return on investment. Humanizing the business will eventually satisfy the long-term business goals. Humans also experience true happiness and satisfaction through empathy. According to Katri Saarikivi, a cognitive neuroscientist, empathy is the reason why humans survived against larger creatures and evolved through millions of years. We all know how important teamwork is in a business.
For most businesses these days decisions are reduced to quantitative analytics data. Decisions are justified by numbers generated through data analytics. It is important to remember that quantitative data cannot precisely describe consumer goals, intents, apprehensions and all the other emotions the buyers go through. With qualitative and quantitative data, empathy is needed to make conclusions and analyze the correlations. Understanding other’s emotional states and intentions can provide insights that analytics cannot. Empathy is an essential aspect in data analytics as well.
Most businesses and individuals are aware of the importance of empathy but do not communicate it properly. In addition to the competitive and individualistic society we live in, the fear of losing is what kills empathy. More importantly, the fear of seeming weak is what prevents empathetic actions and communication among people. We need to understand that different people need different kinds of support. All the stakeholders in a company need empathy in various forms. Empathy can also land you your dream job by connecting with the hiring manager. The ability to connect with people is a skill that is often not taught in schools, it needs to be practiced. Furthermore empathy is not an innate skill that we are born with, we need to practice the skill to become better at it. Although advice on empathy seems obvious and repetitive but implementation of empathy in practice might not be that common.
Here are some ways to practice more empathy:
Make conscious efforts and remind yourself about the value of empathy - Remember to invest time in improving empathetic skills, not only would your interpersonal relationships improve, work relationships and analytical abilities improve as well. Try to understand what the other person is really trying to say. Always be willing to change your perspective no matter how late you might think it is.
Change perspectives by reading books - Simply read different books, articles and listen to podcasts. Reading about history also gives insights on others. Hearing what other people go through leads to a better understanding of intentions and reasonings. It leads to more open-mindedness.
Recall a similar incident when you were in the other person’s shoes - A natural human inclination is to build walls (stereotypes) through labeling others as different. The key to empathy is to remove these prejudices and to clearly see that others are just as similar as you are.
Do not confuse empathy with weakness - Being empathetic is a sign of strength, not weakness. Getting outside our comfort zone to understand someone else’s feelings is not a form of weakness. On the contrary, building an invisible wall around us might be a cowardly act.
Show respect and kindness to others - Most people have a strong desire to receive kindness and to feel respected. Understand that no matter how someone might come across externally, internally they have a desire to be validated and accepted or at least desire kindness from others.
Empathy does not stop at recognition - Empathy is not useful unless it is communicated either verbally or nonverbally. Most people recognize other’s point of views and even their goals and intents. The recognition might be useless until it is somehow communicated that other’s feelings are understood.
Do not ever insult someone’s ideologies - No matter how much you disagree with someone, insulting or directly criticizing them will make matters worse. Look beyond stereotypes and prejudices. The other party will put their energy to prove you wrong. Dale Carnegie, author of How To Win Friends and Influence People says in his book “Criticism is futile because it puts a person on the defensive and usually makes them strive to justify themselves”
Do not make others feel inferior, it won’t make you superior - You don’t have to push others down to prove your point. We need to treat others with respect and give others benefit of the doubt. This works just as well in interpersonal relationships as it is in a corporation.
Push yourself a little more to like others - This is not an easy task. The easier route is to create a prejudice in the beginning and stick to it. Realizations come after making sincere efforts. These realizations are a sign of immense personal growth.
Communicate generously that the other person’s point of view is understood - When someone is trying to prove a point, they spend a lot of energy communicating it. By validating that you have understood what they are saying, the next step can be taken. Negativity can be diminished through proper communication and an actual resolution can be achieved.
Empathy is your most important skill as it is essential in all the other interpersonal and business relationships. Most people do not see the value of it on the technical side of a job or business. Business school graduates need to practice it to succeed long-term in the business world.
As businesses become more digital and analytical the human touch becomes more and more important. To run a successful business in this dynamic world, empathy becomes the number one skill to survive. We can use the technological advances such as social media to incorporate and communicate more empathy and connect with all our stakeholders.
Empathy helps everyone in almost all fields of work and personal relationships. If you are wondering what the starting point of an extra dose of empathy can be, a simple genuine smile at others will do the trick.