Using Five Layers of Empathy to Enhance Your Success
Water flows down an ambling river, curving, moving around all that is in its path. Softly caressing all that it passes along its way. Empathy is a bit like that water. It flows between people, connecting them, soothing them, cleansing them. It builds trust, connection, and has that amazing ability to clean away feelings of shame. While it may seem like a soft skill, just like the river, it can gain momentum and volume and can become an unstoppable power.
While the importance of empathy is gaining kudos in the realm of emotional intelligence (EI), its role in helping your organisation be more successful and profitable is still not fully realised. I believe that the effect that empathy can have on success is something to get really excited about.
Think about what an ‘average customer’ might be feeling before, during and after they make the choice to invest in what you are offering. What do you think their experience would be like? What problems are you solving for them? And what is the biggest thing that they are getting from the experience? What values and desires is this meeting, or not meeting, for them? Take a few minutes to imagine walking in their shoes.
What your organisation creates, whether a product or a service, is created by you for someone else. How much empathy do you have you for them? Do you think about their experience of getting and using what you have created? Have you ever really put yourself in their shoes? Maybe you have. Maybe you haven’t.
Now, and this is the bit where the success part comes in, how could you make their experience better? This is birthing innovations from a place of empathy.
Let’s think of empathy like a yacht out in the ocean, the ocean of workplace dynamics. It is the place where it is safe, as opposed to swimming on your own in the ocean. A place where you are safe from the sharks, from being pulled under by big waves. It is the same in your team. Empathy creates a safe space. A safe space means that your team can put their energy into creation and hard work rather than into staying afloat and protecting themselves.
Now imagine — imagine what your team could be creating if they were in that kind of environment. How much more could you be getting done if everyone felt understood and validated?
What if we now apply this thinking to the stakeholders. Your board, your shareholders and investors. Often it feels like there is conflict between what stakeholders want and what the team wants. Two-way empathy can be a powerful way to bridge the gap and find creative ways to build more support between these two groups.
What are the current conflicts between your stakeholders and your team? How are their values different? Start looking at it and see where there are bridges of empathy that can bring more alignment.
We have all heard the expression ‘to stand in someone else’s shoes’. To imagine what another’s experience is, and feel that without judgement, is powerful and connecting stuff. Where empathy doubles in power is where it becomes a two-way street. I have empathy for you, you have empathy for me. Now, while you may be very good at standing in another’s shoes, a skill that is often forgotten is the other side, the ability to stand in your own shoes.
Can you see your own feelings and experiences as valid?
Can you view yourself without judgement?
Can you have an open mind with yourself?
Being able to see yourself with empathy makes it easier for others to connect with you. It allows an inner honesty that can breed trust in your workplace.
The last place that can boost your success through empathy, is having empathy for the communities that your organisation is part of. That may be one community or many. These communities are like the soil that your business grows in. If you understand what the community needs, how it feels about your organisation growing within it, then you can build a clear strategy of how to feed it. Just as we feed our soil to grow amazing food, we can feed the communities that we operate in and that will support your business to grow.
Expanding your idea and use of empathy is an endless practice. It will form a solid base to the way you connect, that will lead to greater success. And it is a practice. Start with a little more, and then a little more. Start using it in new relationships, in new social dynamics. Play with it. Where does it lead you?
Trish Everett is a highly qualified communications consultant and mindset coach. She specialises in helping organisations build connected, innovative and success-orientated cultures in order to reduce costs and improve workforce productivity and effectiveness.