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Why Empathy is a Critical Business Practice

By David Ackert on October, 23 2018

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David Ackert

It seems like the jerk factory is producing more and more nasty people every day. This is especially evident in a transactional or adversarial business environment where the ultimate objective is to win, as profitably as possible, often at the expense of someone else. But when we allow our personal judgments to govern our worldview, we narrow our opportunities to succeed. Before we know it, we harbor resentment toward our unreasonably demanding clients, our unresponsive prospects, and our self-centered partners. We are left with only a very short list of people who “see things our way” and too few allies to advance our objectives.

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The best solution to this is empathy. Empathy is your capacity to understand what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference rather than exclusively your own. Without it, your worldview is limited to your subjective viewpoint. With it, you can begin to imagine what it might be like being in their shoes. Perhaps they were rude to you the other day because they were still getting over the heated argument they had with their teenager over breakfast. Maybe they find your intellect intimidating and don’t want to let on. Perhaps you inadvertently disrespected them while multitasking and they took it personally. The fact is, you just don’t know all the facts and probably never will. So rather than write them off your short list, consider employing some empathy and giving them the benefit of the doubt. That way, you can still cross-sell with that gruff partner or follow up with that prospect who has repeatedly disregarded your last several attempts to connect. Ironically, a kinder outlook not only places them in a more favorable light, it ultimately benefits your agenda. For some, this will be a difficult practice. After all, we thrive in business by using our heads - thinking strategically to advance our firms, solving problems for our clients and outsmarting our competition. But we must not forget to also use our hearts if we hope to see the bigger picture and seize all of the opportunities available to us.

Authored by David Ackert

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