Empathy is the ability to project one’s feelings to how others may be feeling – and to understand their emotions. Empathy probably comes more naturally to most women than it does to most men given our evolutionary history in caring for others – notably our children. But this is a generalization and isn’t always the case.
So, why is empathy so important for business people? After all, business people are sometimes known for being ruthless.
Empathy – The #1 Essential for Good Business
What is Empathy?
In today’s world, empathy helps business people walk a mile in different shoes and understand the motivations of others. For example, if you manage a team of staff members, it’s valuable to be able to understand what their drivers are and where they’re coming from. The same may be true of those people higher up the chain than you, or other stakeholder groups like shareholders, trade unions, staff in different teams, volunteers. Of course, understanding customers more deeply is an absolute requirement for any career-minded person or entrepreneur.
Why Isn’t Everyone Empathetic?
Unfortunately, many people simply don’t have an innate, empathic ability for various reasons. These reasons and how those people can develop improved empathy and understanding are explored in depth in this article by TheCircle, which makes for fascinating reading.
People may lack empathy due to their genetic make-up (their innate nature) or because of environmental factors in life such as traumatic experiences when young. The good news is that we can change this in ourselves if it needs to change.
Encourage co-workers, your staff or those in charge of you to be brutally honest in giving a candid appraisal of whether you’re really empathetic. Your respondents will still probably err on the side of caution and be more polite – but it should give you some idea of your level of empathy in business.
The Future of Business and Empathy
Remember, too, that if your business demands a vision of the future (and which business doesn’t?) then understanding that deep purpose and being able to communicate that vision to different target groups with different agendas will be of utmost importance. Moreover, it will demand an empathetic understanding of those audiences, which is the main point to remember.
The business world has changed enormously since the turn of the century and those changes demand increased empathy. Real and long-term success in business is actually a by-product of content and enthusiastic employees and satisfied customers. It takes real empathy to make that happen.
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