The Importance of Empathy in Business

At Noetic, we pride ourselves on having a learning and helping culture – we learn from the best and share this knowledge to spread concepts and work we think others will find insightful. One recent discovery of ours is the work that Rob Volpe, Founder and CEO of strategy and insights firm Ignite-360, is doing in empathy.

Empathy in Society Today

In his book, “Tell Me More about That,” Rob explores how his work as a market researcher led him to develop deep expertise on how to build empathy.

Why is this particularly important now?
Societal capabilities to empathize with one another have declined since the early 2000s. In fact, one-third of Americans admit they have trouble seeing one another’s point of view. Rob calls this “The Empathy Crisis”.

Why is this important in business?
In the workplace, empathy helps with collaboration, leadership capabilities, truly understanding employees’ perspectives, and ultimately leads to better decision-making.

How to Solve the Empathy Crisis

Simply put, one key takeaway we had from the book is – it’s talking with one another. While this may sound overly simple, the complexity lies in creating the right conversations that set the stage for authentic sharing and getting to the heart of matters. Empathetic conversations don’t just happen for most of us, it’s a skill to develop and build throughout your career.

How to Foster Empathetic Conversations

Some tactical tips to introduce a topic and open up productive and empathetic conversations include:

  • Start broadly with a statement like “How are you doing with…” or “Tell me more about…”. When you create comfortable, non-intrusive ways to start exploring a topic, you’re creating the space for sharing and understanding to occur.
  • Use humor! Rob cites an example where he was doing qualitative research with women regarding menopause and started the discussion by saying, “You may have noticed that I’m a man, and so I don’t know anything about menopause.” This then gives the group a laugh together, puts people at ease, and sets the dynamic where you are there to listen and learn.
  • Share a story that happened to someone else and listen to the reactions to that story. This can be a particularly effective way to begin empathetic conversations on difficult topics. As Rob wrote, “You can use stories of others in order to get people to share their own…You want to hear what the other person has to say…it’s opening the door for the topic to come out, not chasing it down.”

With greater empathy, organizations can engender greater communication, understanding, loyalty and yes, this all translates into business results. How is your organization fostering empathetic conversations? Drop us a line here – we’d love to hear your thoughts!