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No matter the size of your business and brand or the industry it belongs to, the process ultimately involves people. Its growth depends on people. And when there’re people, there’re feelings you must be able to understand.
According to the academic blog The Conversation, “Empathy is the ability to share and understand the emotions of others.” It’s also interesting to note there are distinct variations or aspects of empathy:
affective, somatic, cognitive and emotional regulation.
We share our empathic disposition with other members of the animal kingdom. Which is why we can feel such deep affection and bonding with other primates and domestic animals, particularly dogs. They seem to have a way to intuitively feel and mirror our emotions.
Let’s not kid ourselves, you want and need to connect with others to share, serve, sell and sustain your business and brand. But to connect with your audience, current, and potential customers, you need to show you care. You can feel their pain. You want to solve a problem that bothers you personally, it’s uncomfortable for you…not just to them.
Empathy vs. Manipulation
There’s a dark side to empathy and developing your empathic ability. It’s the danger of abusing the deeper connection and understanding you’ve developed of your audience’s emotions to manipulate.
The goal of developing greater empathy and directing it toward your audience and customers, as a business or brand, should never be to lie or deceive. That’s where marketing has stirred wrong in the past, and why so many brands are trying a more humanized approach.
Also, the article in The Conversation points out, greater empathy toward a person or a group of people does not always mean greater openness toward all other groups and an inclusive mentality, but the complete opposite. The rejection of others in favor of those you feel for the most… which brings us to…
Empathy vs. Sympathy
When you sympathize with someone else and his/her/their situation, you stay standing where you are.
When you generate and manifest empathy you are placing yourself in the other person’s physical and inner space. You are thinking and feeling what he/she/they are feeling, you are deeply connected. You are seeing things from their eyes, the situation from their perspective. Activating your compassion.“All parties are equally enriched when we perceive and respond to each other with empathy and compassion.” – Helen Riess (The Empathy Effect) Tweet Me
What value can you “give and receive” from showing empathy as a business or brand?
According to the site VeryWellMind, there are a few key personal benefits you gain from experiencing and showing empathy. You:
- Build (stronger) social connections
- Learn to regulate your (own) emotions
- Engage (more often) in helpful behaviors
But how can this relate to your business or brand?
If you are an entrepreneur or a personal brand. Experiencing and expressing empathy toward your clients and audience will be crucial to fostering strong and lasting relationships with them.
You’ll be able to effectively respond to their own emotions by keeping a cooler head and understand where they might be coming from, and how to guide them back out from their frustrations and fears.
You will be (more) willing and able to serve them well and go beyond their expectations. No matter the situation they throw at your feet or in your face.
The same goes for your business. Even if the day to day operations and management is not directly run by you, the level of empathy shown and experienced by your team, when interacting with customers, clients, partners, or each other, will be directly related to the empathy you show them.
Businesses and Brands that are empathetic show(case) their human side.
They understand that in a world where more and more connections are happening online, in virtual settings and environments, with technological bridges and barriers, more and more people want and need to know there’s a human heart on the other side, someone who cares.
Take Action: 3 steps to cultivate empathy as a business or brand:
Listen first, listen completely.
Let your client/customer/fan say what they feel they need to say. Listen with the intention to understand their predicament, without judgment. This is a behavior and response that must be practice, as you instinctively might want to jump in with an explanation, an excuse or a solution.
Ask second, ask objectively.
When you follow step #1 and listen completely, you pay attention. This will help you spot the key pieces of information that will, in turn, become questions to ask your client/customer/follower to gain an even deeper knowledge and understanding of their story. Where are they coming from? What are they truly upset, frustrated, or saddened about?
Gift compassion, offer an apology.
By listening first and asking second you also allow yourself time to gather your own emotions. As mentioned above, instead of jumping right to your own self-defense (or to defend your business or brand) you feel their frustration, you feel their pain. And you give them the gift of compassion.
Showing compassion is not “feeling sorry” for the other person. The gift of compassion says “I feel you!” “I’m not here to judge, criticized or object. I validate your feelings because sometimes I too feel that way. And I would want to receive the same compassion and understanding of my feelings.”
Compassion is followed by a (sincere) apology. This also takes practice and effort. This means you always have to be the bigger person. You apologized for whatever made that person feel the way he/she/they feel. It’s not about accepting blame, pointing fingers or deflecting responsibility.As a business and brand is your responsibility (and joy) to make your client, customer, follower or fan feel welcomed, listened to, cared for. Tweet Me
Scenario: Your client/customer/follower is expressing deep feelings of frustration about your business, product, service or piece of content via public comment or tweet? Applying the 3 steps above, how do you respond with empathy?