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The Election, Empathy, and YOUR BUSINESS (Pathetic vs Empathetic Listening)

November 11th, 2016


On Tuesday night the United States experienced one of the most earth-shattering events in its history, the culmination of a totally unprecedented phenomenon.


Most political, media, academic, and polling “experts” were totally wrong in their predictions regarding just about every aspect of the entire campaign season.   And many were totally dumbfounded at the result. 


How can this be and what did they miss?  How could they all be so wrong?


Much of the answer lies in Empathy.


I often ask people what “empathy” means to them.  When I do, I get dozens of different answers, many of which veer far from its true meaning.    So before we go further, let’s define the word.  According to Wikipedia…:


Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within the other being’s frame of reference, i.e., the capacity to place oneself in another’s position. Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another and feelings with the heart of another.


When it comes to your clients, sales prospects, markets, and other stakeholders, how are YOU doing in the area of empathy?   Do you listen from their perspective, from your own?   Do you actually listen at all, or do you wait to talk?


If you (and your employees) were to become more empathetic, what effect do you think doing so might have on your decisions, culture, and bottom line?


Listening is a skill.   One that can be developed.  Empathy requires the highest form of listening.  As with any skill, becoming a more empathetic listener begins with a commitment to improve.


Unfortunately, most of us are closer to being pathetic listeners than empathetic listeners. 


A view of the USA’s voting map shows two blue coasts, with an enormous swatch of red in between (not withstanding a few small blue dots surrounding major metropolitan areas).    In essence, two Americas, one rural and one urban.   Major media centers and the majority of political prognosticators reside near urban centers.  Their PERCEPTION of the world did not take into account half of the nation’s frame of reference.  They saw the world through their own lenses, and mostly ignored the views of a significant portion of the voters.  They listened selectively and heard what they wanted to hear.   They were blinded by a lack of empathy.  As a consequence, most of their assumptions and predictions were wrong.


As business owners, our perceptions, assumptions, and predictions have a tremendous effect on our effectiveness, growth, profit, decision-making and the overall strength and value of our businesses.   Consequently, it is vitally important for us to commit to making every effort to see things not just through our own lenses, but from the lenses of the marketplace, our employees, our sales prospects, and more.  


There are many ways to improve empathy in your business (and at home).   You can start today committing to improving the listening skills of yourself and your employees.   Joining a peer advisory board can also help tremendously in helping you to see things far beyond your own perspective and assist you in making better decisions.



Copyright ©   Joe Zente  2016.   All Rights Reserved.