World Leaders, Innovators and the greatest thinkers of today’s times have hailed empathy as a wow factor and now the world is giving empathy all the credit it deserves. The dawn of the 21st century has moved the spotlight on Soft Skills. The world is racing at a supersonic speed piggybacking on the bandwagon of technology is now going gaga over a skill set that has proved to be a game-changer of sorts. The 4-Cs of the 21st Century: Critical thinking, Communications, Collaboration, and Creativity have not only changed workplace dynamics but also individual narratives.
The not so new but now extremely honoured member in the team of must-have skill sets is Empathy. According to the Encyclopaedia of Social Psychology, “Empathy is often defined as understanding another person’s experience by imagining oneself in that other person’s situation.”
When one is talking about empathy, the term sympathy often pops up in the conversation. Sympathy means that you have been moved or feel a rush of emotions because of a person or an experience. Empathy helps an individual to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. It helps one to stay there and see where it pricks the most.
Shreeya Pande, Head of Business Development at Jagarmanacha, an excellence Centre in Maharashtra works with a lot of youngsters helping them shape their lives. Shreeya explains empathy beautifully. “Holistic growth is never ‘alone’ it’s always coming in ‘collective’ sense. According to my, Empathy is getting into the shoes of the other person and thinking about the situation and see things from their perspective.”
Research backs empathy
Research shows that empathy is a key ingredient for establishing strong professional bonds as well as maintaining healthy and harmonious personal relationships. Psychologists and Mental Health professionals too have high regard for empathy. According to them, individuals who have high levels of empathy are more likely to function well witnessing stronger social circles, cultivate emotional bonds and have more satisfying personal relationships. Empathy is the lens through which one can have a better view of things while understanding the perspectives, needs and limitations of others in the picture. The golden rule is treating people the way you want to be treated.
When we ask children what their favourite subject is, the answer is most likely to be based on how much they like the teacher teaching a particular subject rather than the interest they have in the subject. Like Harper Lee, author of the bestselling book, To Kill a Mockingbird puts it, “Are you proud of yourself tonight that you have insulted a total stranger whose circumstances you know nothing about?”
How Do We Empathize?
Sucheta Gauba, Founder of Sucheta Gauba, a clothing brand that promotes sustainability has a personal experience to share. “I truly believe every garment has a story and that hands and souls are putting together a piece of happiness and pure joy. How beautiful one feels is subjective but the only thing that stays constant is empathy towards who is wearing it and most importantly who is making them. The movement who made my clothes in the sustainable fashion industry is an inspiration how empathy is the focal point around which every garment’s story is written.” I remember on the 17th day (I started working at 17) of my journey as an entrepreneur my dad told me, “If you want happiness in your work, you ought to keep people around you happy,” she adds.
“When you start to develop your powers of empathy and imagination, the whole world opens up to you.” – Susan Sarandon
Here are a few signs you are an empathic person:
- You care deeply about other people.
- You sometimes feel overwhelmed in social situations.
- You have a knack for picking up on how people are feeling.
- You are attuned to the feelings of those around you and people value you for that.
- People seek your counsel and advice.
- You are a patient listener.
- You try to reach out to others who are suffering.
The world needs more empaths. There are too many intelligent people around anyway.
Here is how to make empathy work as a catalyst for your Business:
Make Empathy your middle name
An organization that humanizes and does not just monetize its relationship with its clients, makes a lasting impact. Make your customers feel heard and cherished. Use social media to create a presence and a brand value on genuine empathy so that your clients and potential customers resonate with you.
Empower your Manpower
Let your team ideate more often. Most of the time, our teams are better engaged with customers and connect to them on an emotional level much more than we do. Their ideas might have the potential to drive in results and revenue. Empathise, Empower and Encourage your team to share their ideas and point of view. Provide them with the resources they need to make things happen. When an employee knows a manager or their boss has their back… they will take that leap.
Because it is just not a Cause
The customers today are informed netizens who are sensitive to global issues. They have a mind of their own and proactively share their views on social media. If customers see a brand supporting a cause or a brand drawing light on an important issue, they connect with the brand, at a more personal level. E.g. When Brands like Reebok, L’Oréal, P&G and Netflix supported the cause ‘Black Lives Matter’, they gained tremendous traction and love from netizens.
Reflect and Re-analyse
Reflection plays a pivotal role in developing empathy. When a team gets and sits back together and reflects on approaches and mechanisms to analyse what worked well for the organization and what did not. Every member gets an opportunity to witness things from the other person’s perspective. One certainly cannot reflect objectively without having empathy for others. Empathy is the building block of positive action.
Satya Nadella says it the best, “Empathy makes you a better innovator. If I look at the most successful products, we [at Microsoft] have created, it comes with that ability to meet the unmet, unarticulated needs of customers.”