World leaders, innovators and the greatest thinkers of today have accepted empathy as a wow factor and now the world is giving the sympathy it deserves. The beginning of the 21st century has brought attention to soft skills. The world is racing at supersonic speed, piggybacking on the bandwagon of technology is now going crazy over a skill set that has proven to be a game-changer of sorts. The 4-Cs of the 21st Century: Critical Thinking, Communication, Collaboration and Creativity have changed not only workplace dynamics but personal narratives as well.
Not so new to the team of required skill set, but now highly respected member empathy. According to the Encyclopedia of Social Psychology, “Empathy is often defined as understanding another person’s experience by imagining oneself in the other person’s situation.”
When one is talking about empathy, the word empathy often comes up in conversation. Empathy means that you are shaken or feeling a rush of emotions because of a person or experience. Empathy helps a person to put himself in someone else’s place. It helps to have someone be there and see where it stings the most.
Shreya Pandey, Head of Business Development at Jagarmanacha, a center of excellence in Maharashtra, works with a lot of youth who help shape their lives. Shreya explains sympathy beautifully. “Holistic development is never ‘alone’, it always comes in the ‘collective’ sense. According to me, empathy is coming in the place of the other person and thinking about the situation and seeing things from their point of view .
Research Supports Empathy
Research shows that empathy is a key component to establishing strong professional bonds as well as maintaining healthy and harmonious personal relationships. Psychologists and mental health professionals also place a great deal of respect for empathy. According to her, individuals who have high levels of empathy are more likely to function well by observing strong social circles, develop emotional bonds and have more satisfying personal relationships. Empathy is the lens through which one can see things better while understanding the perspectives, needs and limitations of others in the picture. The golden rule is treating people the way you want them to be treated.
When we ask children what their favorite subject is, the answer is most likely to be based on how much they like the teacher teaching a particular subject, not their interest in the subject. Like Harper Lee, author of the bestselling book To Kill a Mockingbird, says, “Are you proud of yourself tonight that you insulted a total stranger whose circumstances you know nothing about?”
How do we sympathize?
Sucheta Gauba, founder of Sucheta Gauba, a clothing brand that promotes sustainability, has a personal experience to share. “I truly believe that every garment has a story and that the hand and soul are putting together a piece of joy and pure bliss. How beautiful one feels is subjective but the only thing that remains constant is Empathy about who is wearing it and most importantly, who is making them. My clothing-making movement in the sustainable fashion industry is an inspiration in how empathy is the focal point around which every garment’s story is written.” I remember on the 17th day of my journey as an entrepreneur (I started working at the age of 17) my dad told me, “If you want happiness in your work, you have to make the people around you happy.” Must be happy,” she adds.
“When you begin to develop your powers of empathy and imagination, the whole world opens up to you.” — Susan Sarandon
Here are some signs that you are an empathic person:
- You care a lot about other people.
- You sometimes feel overwhelmed in social situations.
- You have a knack for knowing how people are feeling.
- You are used to the feelings of those around you and people value you for that.
- People take your advice and advice.
- You are a patient listener.
- You try to reach out to others who are suffering.
The world needs more empathy. There are a lot of intelligent people around anyway.
Here’s how to make empathy work as a catalyst for your business:
Make Empathy Your Middle Name
An organization that humanizes and doesn’t monetize its relationships with its customers makes a lasting impression. Make your customers feel heard and cherished. Use social media to build a presence and a brand value on genuine empathy so that your customers and potential customers resonate with you.
empower your manpower
Let your team think more often. Most of the time, our team engages better with customers and connects with them on an emotional level much more than we do. Their ideas can have the potential to drive in results and revenue. Empathize, empower and encourage your team to share their ideas and perspectives. Provide them with the resources they need to get things done. When an employee knows a manager or their boss has their back…
Cause it’s not the only reason
The customers today are informed netizens who are sensitive to global issues. They have their own mind and constantly share their views on social media. If customers see an important issue being highlighted or a brand supporting a cause, they engage with the brand on a more personal level. For example when brands like Reebok, L’Oreal, P&G and Netflix endorsed ‘Black Lives Matter’, they got tremendous traction and love from netizens.
reflect and re-analyze
Reflection plays an important role in developing empathy. When a team comes together and sits back and considers approaches and mechanisms to analyze what is good for the organization and what is not. Each member gets an opportunity to see things from the point of view of the other person. Certainly one cannot reflect objectively without empathy for others. Empathy is the building block of affirmative action.
Satya Nadella puts it best, “Empathy makes you a better innovator. If I look at the most successful products, we [at Microsoft] Designed, it comes with the ability to meet the unmet, unambiguous needs of customers.”