3 Ways Empathy Helps You in Business
We’ve all worked with next-level employers and employees. These are people that excel, inspire and work hard to out-perform themselves. They constantly want to get better and live by a can’t stop, won’t stop attitude. Professional development is their game, and they seem to also have everything together - both at home and in their social life. They are socially attractive people and others gravitate toward them. Regardless of their enneagram number or whether they are introverted or extroverted, they are good with people and highly valued.
These super humans exist all around us, but unfortunately so do their antithesis. Ever think about what sets them apart from the toxic, negative, emotional crazy person next to you? Why can’t that guy seem to retain his employees and live with the same sense of purpose as the out-performer?
Simple. Apart from their natural talents and knowledge, out-performers seem to:
A) Have a deeply intrinsic sense of their value and self-worth and
B) Possess the attribute of empathy. Balanced and pure empathy.
I wish we could fully cover A because it’s so important for us to understand. But for our purposes today, we’ll cover empathy in this blog.
Let’s start at the definition...
: 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”
Empathy goes sometimes just one or two short steps further past sympathy - into closer, deeper waters. The thing is empathy is hard because it requires “vulnerability-lite”. We don’t need to be crying with our more emotional friends to be empathic. But we do inch toward that deeper sense of needing to cry with someone when we’re empathic.
In the workplace this might look like simply helping and hearing your employee like you would a good friend. You’re not boundary-less with them, but you understand their complaints and questions separate from your own objectives and experience.
In that sense, your ability to contemplate their struggle as if it were your own helps you relate, which means you’ve understood them better than a non-empathic, emotional robot would. This emotional robot is someone who doesn’t understand their feelings so they push them to the side or bury them. That person might be a controlled person on the outside in the right situations, but they tend to be toxic in the wrong situations.
When you use empathy to relate with an employee or direct report, you’re saying they matter.
Their experience and feelings while different are just as valuable as yours. And that frees them to also feel heard - even trusted and valued. And isn’t that what we all want to sense at work?
Enough about understanding emotions - something good leaders do in general. Let’s move forward and talk about the value of empathy in business.
1 BETTER LEAD CALLS → MORE SALES
“To sell effectively in the U.S. market of today, a salesman needs to have empathy. To sell effectively in the foreign market, crossing cultural lines, requires even more empathy (HBR 2006).”
In a study by Rutgers University, “6) In a national insurance company, insurance sales agents who were weak in emotional competencies such as self-confidence, initiative, and empathy sold policies with an average premium of $54,000. Those who were very strong in at least 5 of 8 key emotional competencies sold policies worth $114,000 (Hay/McBer Research and Innovation Group, 1997).”
Do you want to have better lead calls that result in more sales? Great! Be empathic.
When you’re able to adjust your tone and change your pace according to what the person on the other line is doing, you’re halfway there.
Under the StoryBrand principals, something we also have to understand is that ultimately people are most motivated to buy products that solve their internal problems. They want a physical service or product that helps them feel better (i.e. less stressed, more productive, healthier, etc). The StoryBrand concepts see potential customers as people with felt desires and needs. To help people get where they want to go, we first listen to them. We seek to empathize in their stress or lack of knowledge and then frame our product as a problem solver. Even if we don’t sell them our most involved package, we’ve helped them feel better just by relating with them. And even if they feel better for only a brief moment during the call, that’s still a win.
It’s been proven time and again, not just by your people, but by science, yall. Empathy will help you sell!!!
Motivate yourself and you’ll sell even more.. Here’s a great blog with tips from Evan with Tips on How to Stay Motivated.
2 WORK IS MORE ENJOYABLE
Good teams know that “empathizing is an essential trait for preventing and resolving conflicts at work (CIPHR)”. We don’t want to constantly have non-empathic encounters at work. We want to have a pleasant time working and have decent colleague/ associate encounters. When work environments are driven by empathy, we’re able to get along with co-workers and clients better. We’re able to separate ourselves from conflict and stop turning to blame games; we might even enjoy work again. I’ll say it differently. Workplaces where empathy is made paramount get better results and experience less turn over (Page 4 - BusinessSolver 2019).
Researchers at the Center for Creative Leadership believe that “empathetic leaders are assets to organizations, in part, because they are able to effectively build and maintain relationships—a critical part of leading organizations anywhere in the world”. Let’s go a bit more in-depth on that tpoic…
COLLEAGUE & MANAGER RELATIONSHIPS
It’s probably no surprise that “82% of employees would consider leaving their job for a more empathetic organization” (BusinessSolver 2019 ). (82%?! THAT’S SO HIGH!)
Have you stopped to think recently about your team members in a positive light? Sometimes we’re so inundated by a lack of empathy and emotional intelligence in the workplace that we forget that the cubicle next to us has a living, breathing person in it. The commenters writing tasks and giving updates in your Slack app are people. They are humans with hopes, plans, circumstances, etc. Everything that makes up our humanity is a shared, common experience, and we should operate in that reality.
If you feel like you are the only person in your office that gets that, you’re probably not alone. “58 percent of CEOs reported difficulties in consistently exemplifying empathy in their daily work life, a 13-point increase from 2018(BusinessSolver 2019).” The increase there is uplifting, but the overall percentage is rough. I mean, if that’s the percentage for CEOs, imagine how hard empathy would be for your teammates and boss… There is good news despite this: At the same time, if your CEO does do a good job of displaying empathy, it’s probably going to trickle down.
Something else is this - An empathic person will like their employees more and stop giving on their boss so quickly. That’s because they don’t hop to conclusions based on their own experience. When something goes wrong at work or a relational conflict emerges, an empathic person doesn’t react based on emotion. They take time to navigate their feels and embraces a relational obstacle like any other workplace challenge. The hindrance of a hard encounter with someone doesn’t hold them back, it motivates them forward to tackle the problem with savvy wits and likable qualities.
Honestly, who doesn’t like a person that can step outside of their own narrative into the life of another on a moments notice?
You can easily put someone else’s feelings above your own in a situation where you are truly listening instead of speaking.
My 10th grade English teacher shared a quote that I’ll never forget: Some people wait to talk, others wait to listen.
Are you waiting to jump in and assign your feelings and emotions to someone else’s work experience. Or are you asking how their experience made them feel. At the end of the day, people want to know and be known. Are you helping them be known by wanting to learn about them? Suffice it to say, if we really want to be empathetic at work, we’ll be better listeners and plan want to say to others based on their emotional cues, not ours alone.
Want to start generating a culture of empathy in your workplace? Start by asking how the families of your employees, colleagues and/or employers are doing. Ask what they do for fun outside of work. Build a relationship. Even with tough and toxic people, you can find a middle ground. It might be hard at first, but empathizing with people and understanding their value will help your relationships. Empathy WILL make you a better leader, helping you win at work.
3. RECOVER FROM CLIENT PITFALLS FASTER
Navigating what your client(s) want is tricky, risky business. Especially in corporate work environments where technology and creativity collide, you run into business relationship hazards left and right.. Producing video, for example, means you have to find an outcome that works for everyone involved, and that can be a lot. WOW, it’s complicated stuff. In many situations, when it comes to projects and project management, everybody wants something different. On top of that, what your client(s) want doesn’t always align and/or work perfectly in real-life situations. So, you have to work to find common ground and resolve opinion difference before even getting started. Can you imagine doing this without empathy?
You probably can. Situations like this - both with positive and negative outcomes - happen all the time.
Empathic Client Example
You’re almost done with the pre-production stage of a project when you get a call from your client and subsequent powers that be. After what’s turned into months of planning, they’re now requesting changes to the plan. And they do this in an empathic way. Therefore, you find yourself thinking, Dang, that stinks, but those changes are needed for a reason. Those are good days with good clients. They know how hard you work, value your time and explain the needed changes effectively. In essence, they’ve given you the time of day and didn’t let their stress impact you. At the end of the day, you’re still getting paid to work for them, so you can put on a happy face regardless. But you’re just happy this client isn’t an insane psychopath who can’t communicate well under pressure. Over the phone, they realized and explained that they are frustrated for you because you’re work so far is null and void. They thank you for time, and promptly cut your check for the past month of work. They even reminded you of your new due date and next pay date. IT’S AMAZING. You’re astounded. There’s angle choirs in the background. This is the healthiest work environment you’ve ever had. And guess what? Because you took their empathic approach to heart and didn’t respond in anger, they noticed that you too are an employee/ contractor worth their weight in gold.. You are good for business and they decide to keep you around and/or refer you to others.
Un-empathic Client example
Other times it’s the opposite. Your client calls demanding changes angrily for goodness knows what reason. You respond in fake obedience, letting your blood boil while over the phone you say, “No problem. Sure, anything you need.” There’s a definite trace of bitterness in your voice as you try to mask what is really going on. You’re disappointed and mostly, feeling undervalued. Their stress has gotten the better of you and you let yourself become bitter. You could’ve responded differently, but how could you? You’ve succumb to an un-empathic approach and couldn’t get past the negativity. So, you hang up without saying what you should have. Namely, “You sound stressed, Mrs. Client X. Are you feeling stressed or am I off base?”
Empathy means regardless of the situation, you are able to see through people’s words into their emotions, step inside their shoes and feel with them.
The questions is this: whether in positive or negative boss-client situations, are you going to respond in empathy or apathy?
Want to get great client reviews, but don’t how? Read this blog to learn more: How to get Amazing Testimonials.
Empathy is PIVOTAL in the work place. When you allow yourself to feel with others, you’ll be a better follower, team player, and most importantly, a better leader. You’ll naturally inspire people and attract clients and potential customers to you. Your conversion rates will be higher. And you’ll overcome client challenges faster.
At Caffeine, we really care about people and implement empathy to drive our team and our business.
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