Why corporates and CEOs need to do empathy

An increasing number of CEOs – particularly in new media – are becoming aware of the need to bring empathy and emotional intelligence into their business.  In an article for the Huffington Post, consultant Rose Schreiber explains why “empathy as a social currency” is gaining ground in the business world.  We live in different times and consumers expect companies to evidence values and understand their concerns – so CEOs need to engage in a much more sophisticated and nuanced level of communication with external stakeholders.  And frankly, they also need to show they mean it.

As Schreiber explains:

Empathy is essential to providing better customer experiences. If you understand your customers, you’ll be well equipped to give them exactly what they need.

Four steps to achieving empathy are outlined as follows:

1. Make an active decision that you want to see something from another point of view. For most part, we are blind to another’s point of view (usually as a result of our own opinions and a need to be right) and this is 80% of the work in reaching greater empathy.

2. Become conscious of the filter you’re listening through. Most of our biases are completely unconscious and when we listen to others, we don’t realise that we’re listening with judgment.

3. Go deeper than the issue to find the underlying emotion. Most of us get stuck at the issues and never really try to understand why a person is feeling a certain way.

4. Connect with the underlying emotion and acknowledge it. When we understand underlying human emotions, it’s easier to find connection. In the root of the word empathy “em” means “in,” “path” means “suffering” – empathy is simply feeling the suffering of someone else.

The principle extends to employees as well as consumers. If they feel valued and understood, not only will they stick around longer but they’ll show a greater willingness to contribute across the organisation and not just in their current silo.

In all of this, the CEO plays a key role not, as Schreiber explains, in “being human” but in humanising the organisation.  That may sound like a play with words but what it comes down to is not being everybody’s buddy, but truly grasping what stakeholders need, feel and want.

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