We are in the midst of a global, empathy crisis. Empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of others, is at an all-time low. The evidence is in the news every day. You may even see the lack of empathy in your colleagues at work, or possibly your kids. A recent study found college students today are 40 percent less empathetic than those of 20 years ago, with the biggest drop occurring after 2001. (Source: 2010, University of Michigan Institute for Social Research Study)
Have you lost touch with your ability to empathize? Did you even have it in the first place?
According to Rutgers psychologist Daniel Goleman, “The most effective leaders are all alike in one crucial way: they all have a high degree of what has come to be known as emotional intelligence.” (Source: “What Makes a Great Leader”, HBR)
Consider the following 3 QUESTIONS:
1. Am I Non-Judgmental?
Is it your way or the highway? When you meet someone for the first time what thoughts go through your head? Do you see them as ‘other’? When was the last time you said to someone “I see your point”?
You don’t have to agree with another person all the time, but you should be able to step into their shoes and see the world from their perspective. With empathy, there are two primary types: cognitive and affective. Cognitive empathy means you take the perspective of someone else. Affective empathy happens on a deeper emotional level where you feel what someone else is feeling. You’re more likely to have cognitive empathy at work, but being judgmental gets in the way of both.
2. Do I Listen to Others?
You’re waiting for a meeting to start. Do you make small talk with your colleagues or keep your nose in your smartphone checking social media? During the presentation or conversation, are you listening completely to what the speaker is saying? Or is your attention drawn to your laptop and its endless stream of emails? Or maybe you crave comfort from your news feed?
Active listening is critical to developing empathy. Use your ears and have an open mind. To hear accurately allows you to connect with, and ultimately, understand other people.
3. Do I Truly Understand My Customers (or Stakeholders)?
You may work in the Ivory Tower but your customers work 2nd shift at the plant. Are you able to communicate and market to them in ways that are meaningful and inspire action? Do you understand inherently what motivates them? Are they at the forefront of your decision making?
Keeping the “customer first” means regularly stepping into your customer’s shoes to gain perspective on their world as well as your new product, service, or marketing campaign. You should always be able to answer questions like, “How does my customer feel about this?” and “Why would my customer want this?”
So how did you do?
If you answered “no” to any of the 3 QUESTIONS, you could benefit from some skill-building to strengthen your empathy.
Before you outfit yourself with some new empathy skills, it’s a good idea to understand the current landscape:
What Happened to Empathy?
Empathy is a trait we are all born with, but like any skill or muscle, it takes practice to strengthen it. Unfortunately, we are in a vicious cycle. Our empathy muscles have atrophied because we aren’t practicing. Since we’re not practicing, we’re not expressing empathy. And yet, we’re hungrier than ever to make connections and have our voices heard. But without empathy, others neither hear us nor understand us, which makes us even hungrier for connection.
Technology, social media, and pop culture are unwitting co-conspirators that weaken our empathy muscle. They encourage us to seek constant validation and tie our self-worth to things outside of ourselves. We are engaged in a never-ending quest for likes and shares, and our lives are carefully curated within our particular social “bubbles”.
Lack of empathy extends into the workplace. It is hindering our critical decision-making abilities, problem-solving skills, ideation, and communication. That has a direct impact on the bottom line.
At Ignite 360, we partner with some of the world’s most recognized brands on consumer insights and strategy. What we’re seeing (and hearing) is an ongoing empathy gap between the Ivory Tower and the end consumer. We guide our clients on qualitative journeys to business decisions by focusing on empathy, listening, and understanding. In the corporate ‘bubble,’ there’s often a lack of empathy in day-to-day operations. Without that empathetic connection, a vision for the brand cannot be clear, new products and communication miss the mark, and business objectives become harder to achieve.
Reverse the Trend, Join the Empathy Revolution!
We host our first in a series of Empathy webinars on January 31st at 10am PST.
We at Ignite 360 commit to reversing the negative empathy trend. We’re excited to introduce Empathy Camp™, a suite of training workshops designed to build the skills necessary to apply empathy to problem solving and decision making.
From “orientation” to “day camp” and “boot camp” – there are different solutions to match your needs. Each training is customized to match the unique situations and needs of your organization, function, and team.
Each level of Empathy Camp™ is designed to develop abilities around the 5 skills necessary to establish and sustain empathy: Dismantle Judgment, Ask Good Questions, Active Listening, Integrate into Understanding, and Use Solution Imagination. No matter where you are in your own empathy journey, chances are you can improve your skills in at least one of these areas.
You and your team will come away with improved skills to help you better understand your consumer and stakeholders, make better decisions, and solve problems with the consumer first.
You can help reverse the empathy trend. Let’s burst the bubble and connect.
Our first Empathy webinar kicks off on January 31st at 10am PST. We’d love to for you to come! Reserve your spot today.
Put empathy to work for you right now! Join the conversation at one of our social media channels so you don’t miss out on our deep dives into empathy.