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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The business of empathy...

Empathy~definitionThe ability to understand another person’s circumstances, point of view, thoughts, and feelings.

Why it's important

There are good reasons to have empathy. Not just in doing business, but in all aspects of life. Sometimes it's hard to see things as others see them. I am still working on this at times. It's impossible to fully understand the extent of what someone else is going through, because there are so many things we keep hidden. We have gotten really good at hiding our feelings and bad experiences, and presenting only what we want people to see.

That's why it's so important to be compassionate if another person actually does open up to you, and tell you something. In my job, I have heard so many heartbreaking stories of every day people. Things I'm pretty sure they didn't share with too many others. But they chose to share with me because they trusted me. That's huge. For someone to trust you with a very personal piece of information, and something that has hurt them very deeply. It means they are thinking of you as a friend.

It also means it's time to take off the business hat, and just be a human talking to another human. I've been told not to touch people, that it's not a necessary part of the job. That it's too personal. It could cause a lawsuit, etc. That's just not acceptable to me. If someone is hurting, my natural instinct is to care enough to try to comfort them. And the instinct to reach out to another person who is hurting should be rewarded, not criticized. We all need to be loved and cared about. And there are times when you need to throw out that stupid rule book, and just be a person caring about another person.

How it fits into the business world

There are times when we are expected to meet our numbers. To push and push until we're exhausted. I have to meet quota every day. It can be very taxing if you don't take things one day at a time. Overwhelming, in fact. That's why I've learned to sometimes take things hour by hour. Sales is definitely challenging work, and not for people who are easily disturbed. You have to have nerves of steel, and an even tougher will. It is always in the back of our minds. Which sometimes makes you feel like you're rushing to beat the clock. Don't make the mistake of rushing to take care of your customers, though.

I know it can be difficult. I've gone through all of it, and for a long time. But I've learned that if I just slow down and listen, I find out everything I need to know to help the person in front of me. I think you probably realize I'm not the average salesperson. I know about business, and I have a lot of other skills. All of these things are things I've taught myself. Forced myself to learn. And one of the main things I also learned very early on was that, if you don't have the ability to relate to others, you aren't going to make it very far in life. 

Empathy is vital in every aspect of our lives, from our marriages to our relationships with our colleagues. Our relationships with our clients require empathy, and painstaking attention to detail if we want them to last. Listening to the customer, and understanding what they really need. It takes caring and empathy. Sometimes they could talk to you about something having nothing to do with business. Sometimes, they might even cry about something they are going through. It happens. They could tell you some things that shock you or break your heart. The best thing to do in that situation is just to listen. To let them get out what they need to say. To show them that you care about them. At that point, you don't need to be thinking about business, just the business of being empathetic.

The new business acumen

There's only so much you can learn from a book. They're just words on paper. The author may have translated an experience, or something they wanted you to feel. But it's up to the you, the reader, to interpret the deeper meaning of what was intended. 

Business in a book is different than business in the real world. Two totally different experiences. Business in theory is completely different than dealing with actual human beings in real life. And in real time. Real politics. Actually getting your hands dirty, doing the work is different than reading or fantasizing about what it could be like. It's going to break your heart. But it's also going to make you better at understanding just what that person standing in front of you is going through. Because you've been there.

Same thing with our feelings as human beings. We feel very passionately. It is part of being human. We have such deep feelings, and we keep a lot of them hidden. A lot of us are going through some terrible things. Things we can't even talk about. But we're going through them. Every day. We hurt deeply. Not just us, but the whole of humanity feels the same things we as individuals are feeling right this very second. 

Humans are sensitive creatures, who are fine tuned to feel. We are deeply affected by the feelings and actions of others. We are biologically made to feel the feelings of others. It is in our DNA. And we can't help but incorporate that into everything we do. When we do business with another person, we want to know that they understand what we need. At least on some level. That they can relate to us. That they feel what we feel. That they are human, too. We can't do business with people who are closed off, who give one word answers. Who don't have to ability to look us in the eye and smile. It makes us doubt if they can be trusted. And we need to trust those we do business with. Those we choose to invite into our lives. Those who invite us into theirs.

Thanks for stopping by...CC

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