Empathy in various aspects of business
Empathy is a skill that gives one the ability to understand the feelings, circumstances, intentions, thoughts, and needs of others; and to consider them when making decisions.
Empathy is the ability to understand other people and solve problems from their perspective.
This article looks at empathy as a business skill and tool, in various aspects of business, and the ways to practice empathy in business.
Empathy in various aspects of business – entrepreneurship
Empathy is one of the five key skills of entrepreneurship, it gives entrepreneurs the ability to be able to relate to how others are feeling, because they have been in a similar situation themselves.
It is a skill that helps entrepreneurs to understand the reality of being an entrepreneur, or to evaluate one’s ability to become one.
For example, when an entrepreneur or a potential entrepreneur reads about other entrepreneurs, or interviews them, that person is developing empathy.
Such exercises help to understand what those entrepreneurs have been through by putting oneself in their shoes.
Empathy in various aspects of business – design thinking
Empathy is a thinking tool that can be used for creative products.
That great product or service is a result of a creative idea. However, before that idea, there was a conscious and deliberate effort to understand the feelings, circumstances, intentions, thoughts, and needs of others.
As one of the essential tools in the designing process, empathy helps in understanding the emotional and cultural realities of the people for whom you are designing.
Therefore, you will be able to design a better solution that adds value, and find customers for your business idea.
Empathy also helps one to connect with potential collaborators, audience and readers in a more meaningful way.
For example, empathy as a business tool in content writing is about writing for, and with the reader in mind.
When empathy is used in the right way, it becomes a business tool that helps to identify the unmet needs of others, leading to the creation of new products and services.
Empathy in various aspects of business – marketing
In order to be successful, a business needs to ensure that the marketing programs are appropriate for their customers.
Empathy helps you get into the customer’s mind-set, and gives the ability to really understand the customer better.
This helps a business to make correct assessments of the needs and wants, or the thinking processes of the target market.
In addition, the empathy skills of those responsible would determine the extent to which information about customer needs and wants are wisely, and honestly used, to provide products and services that meet the needs of the customers.
Empathy in various aspects of business – management
Empathy as a business skill in management refers to the ability of a leader to understand the feelings and viewpoints of subordinates, and to take those into account when making decisions.
Empathy is one of the attributes of emotional intelligence and skilled leaders use empathy and social skills to earn the loyalty of their subordinates.
Such leaders also, tend to be good at settling disputes between managers, and are better able to find common ground and purpose among diverse areas of the organisation.
This skill is also found among leaders who are able to move people in a desired direction.
Empathy in various aspects of business – customer service
Empathy in customer service is about putting the customers first. It is one of the dimensions of quality service. Every customer wants to be thought of and treated as individuals, not as numbers.
Empathy determines the extent and quality of individualised attention an organisation gives its customers.
Empathy makes great customer service personnel, it is what makes them to relentlessly focus on the customer.
Without empathy, a customer service officer would be unable to offer excellent customer service. They will be unable to understand customer needs and challenges from the customer’s point of view.
Empathy in various aspects of business – network relationships
In immigrant entrepreneurship, elements of mutual relationship, quality, and ongoing exchanges between business partners and collaborators, are often explained using the synonymous terms “guanxi” and, “tie” or “strength of tie”.
The former is used in the Eastern network literatures while the latter is found in Western network literatures.
They describe how network relationships lead to business success through trust, understanding, support and reciprocating on past favours.
Empathy has been one of the four dimensions of guanxi, long before the western literature paid attention to the concept in business relationships.
Therefore, from this perspective, empathy is a relational business tool. It refers to the ability of customers and sellers to understand each others’ needs, in network relationships.
Empathy in various aspects of business – human resource management
Empathy is important in the development of personal skills and employability. It involves responding to practical or emotional needs of colleagues.
Organisations expect candidates to be able to demonstrate respect and empathy towards others. In addition to qualities such as pragmatism, decisiveness with staff and experience, managers tend to be selected for their empathy.
From the international human resources perspective, adaptiveness is one of the key criteria used in selecting expatriates who possess the ability to put themselves in others’ situations to identify with them.
Cultural empathy is key trait of adaptability and is one of the selection criteria used in assessing a candidate’s potential of being successful abroad.
International managers are expected to develop empathy and tolerance toward cultural differences, being able to demonstrate empathy for different viewpoints makes them more positively perceived in the host country.
Empathy enhances an expat’s interactions with people, it indicates an ability to understand and accept diversity, honest friendships with foreign nationals, and the willingness to use, no matter how rudimentary, the host-country language.
Empathy in various aspects of business – philanthropy
Empathy gives genuine concern for the needs of others and the desire to serve them.
It is about experiencing others’ emotions by imagining their perspectives and situations, it is a significant indicator of giving.
Philanthropy is about compassion and giving back, it goes further from empathy to actually taking action, and can be described as the external expression of internal empathy.
It is through empathy that charities and philanthropy create amazing social results, without questionable ulterior motives.
Empathy as a business skill and tool – how to practice empathy
Practice empathy through observation
Practising empathy through observation involves, not just thinking about what people need, but also on exploring how they behave.
Practice empathy by engaging people in conversation
Engaging people in conversation is another way to practice empathy. It involves asking people how they feel and what they think, and actually listening to them.
Practice empathy by interviewing people
Exercises such as interviewing people can help you to develop empathy for what they have been through and what they need.
Ask the why-type questions in order not to assume answers. Such questions enables you to put yourself in others’ shoes because you have a clearer understanding of their situation and can imagine what you would do in the same situation.
Practice empathy by watching and listening
In order to ensure that your product or service relates to your audience, watch and listen to them.