Life in Another’s Shoes: How to Embrace Empathy

This week we have spoken quite a bit on the importance of empathy and embracing all walks of life. However, we have yet to speak about how to develop empathy.

Empathy is a crucial skill whether you are dealing with coworkers, employees, customers, or friends. It is what gives us the human connection person everyone craves. In fact, it could be the difference between a good leader and a great one.

Does empathy not come naturally to you? Here are a few ways to empathize with people in your life so you can better understand what they need.

Put Yourself Aside

A pivotal part of developing empathy is to put yourself aside.  Empathy is about putting another person’s feelings before your own. Don’t create something just because you think YOU would like it. Develop’ product because you think other people will enjoy it or find it useful. Look at some of the most successful inventors in history. They didn’t create things because they would get rich. They did it because it would make the lives of others easier.

Put Yourself in Other’s Shoes

Although it’s one of the easiest the concepts to understand, this step is one of the hardest practices in developing empathy. The best way to strengthen this skill, you need to READ and IMAGINE yourself as a completely different person. If you are middles aged, middle-class male business owner, read about a young boy risking his life to immigrate to America or the experience of a single mother struggling to make ends meet in the slums.

Ask Questions

One of the easiest ways to understand someone else’s perspective is to ask questions. Ask how someone would react to a situation or what kinds of struggles they experience every day. Not only will you learn more about how other people live and think, but you will also make that person feel heard.

Listen

The most important part of empathy is listening. Even if you don’t agree with a person’s opinion, listing to their story and ideas will help you understand them. Don’t talk. Don’t argue. Just take a moment to listen and comprehend what they are saying. Notice their body language. Open your heart to them as they are opening up to you. When they share their opinion, make sure they know you heard them. Validate their opinion. It might not be correct, but it is THEIR’S, and they are not going to let go of that thinking easily. All we can do is peacefully agree to disagree.

 

In-Spiration Challenge: Embrace Empathy

It has been awhile since I have posted anything on our blog. It’s partially due to the hectic work schedule that I pushed myself through the last several weeks. It’s also due to the design of our blog post schedule so we can continue to deliver quality content more efficiently.

Then, Charlottesville happened this weekend. It changed what I initially planned for this week’s theme.

This week we are going to focus on empathy.

Empathy is a skill that I am proud to possess, something instilled by my mother. It is also something often overlooked in the business world. It’s thought to be a weakness. It’s a symbol of status to be able to turn away those who cannot afford your product. It means you are a luxury brand; it’s exclusive.

However, this can not only be a disconnect from untouched target markets, but it can and has become dangerous. By making people believe that they are better and deserve superior treatment to everyone else, we begin to encounter anger when they are treated the same of everyone else.

Think about it

We see it every day in customer service and sales. There will be some customers that are calm and understanding when faced with a small mistake like the wrong coffee order. Mistakes are human and the coffee is remade. Then, there are the customers that throw a fit. They insult. Sometimes they yell. They also get a new cup of coffee, but who do you think those employees look forward to seeing again? Who will get the more active customer service?

The calmer customer displayed empathy, understanding, and they are the ones that will earn the loyalty of the many. The other is a product of culture telling them “You are inherently worth more and you don’t need to understand those considered below you.” Then, when they’re not treated with the utmost care, they get angry.

That is what we see now but on a larger and more dangerous scale. We are now faced with an entire group of people that were told they were better, deserved more, and who believe that power is being taken away just because some else wants to be treated with equality.

As business people and as people who control the image of society in the media, we have an obligation to condemn this behavior. We must show that we will no longer stand for this lack of empathy toward other cultures. We are all equal human beings who deserve to be respected, not threatened or forced into the shadows. Now is the time to understand one another, love one another.

 

The Challenge

So, my challenge for every one of my readers is to spread compassion. Display kindness. Express empathy towards those targeted by this hatred. Create an atmosphere at your business that embraces different cultures and ideas. Most importantly, do not show indifference.

Elie Wiesel once said, “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of beauty is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, but indifference between life and death.”

Take a stand. Invest in love and empathy.