For my fellow entrepreneurs and small business owners out there, many of us have a natural ability to empathize with others. By this, I mean it more so in a cognitive way than an emotional way. Empathy stems from your ability to hear, sense and truly understand someone else.
Empathy becomes increasingly important as we get older. With each passing year, we gain new knowledge and experiences; and it can sometimes make you feel disconnected from others – as if no one understands you. There are many things that prevent us from feeling connected with each other (technology, distance, politics, religion, healthcare, and so on), so the ability to build trust and authentic connections can be the most powerful activity in the development of your business.
Connecting With Your Audience
When someone feels truly connected with you, your brand, or your product / service, it makes a world of difference. You create that difference by developing true connections with customers and clients. And it’s very difficult to build strong connections without empathy.
Consider practicing empathy in your daily life. Even if you already believe that your emotional intelligence is high, these small ways to practice could have a positive impact on both your personal life and your business.
Ways to Practice Empathy
1. The next time you strongly disagree with someone, be completely quiet. Focus on his or her words, understanding what information is being shared. Listening is one of the most powerful tools we have as humans – it is the key to powerful communication and building trust. This means using all of your senses to understand that person – hearing, seeing, and sensing them. Your aim is listening to understand, not to respond.
2. Request more information from a person you do not understand well, or who’s point of view you are opposed to. It’s easy to get on a soapbox and preach about what you believe, but it takes patience and understanding to get someone else’s point of view. Rather than arguing with the anti-(fill in the blank) person and offering your pro-(fill in the blank) opinions, start by acknowledging that it’s okay not to agree at first and ask why or how.
3. There is someone you see on a regular basis, but know little about. Ask him or her a specific and thoughtful question. This could be asking your local barista about his life or a customer about something unrelated to work. The key is to gain new information about that person. It may be someone you’ve overlooked or haven’t considered before because he or she seems so different to you.
When you develop an empathic approach, the most significant impact you can see is in the trust people will quickly gain with you. Understanding others invites them to also understand you, and that is a powerful way to develop positive relationships of collaboration.
ENTREPRENEURS: Have you had to address the need for empathy in your business? Please share your thoughts below.