Why is empathy important?
Why is empathy important? The question bears weight in every facet of life, from our personal and professional relationships to our day-to-day small business operations. Mastering how to show empathy often makes the difference between keeping relationships or losing them. Given the benefits of empathy in other parts of life, it’s no wonder so many of us are left wondering, What are the benefits of empathy in the business world? As Tony Robbins says, “We all differ in how we perceive the world, and it’s this difference that must guide our communications with others as we seek to understand their perspectives.” This same truth applies to workplace communications, and we must treat everyone we come into contact with on the job with dignity and respect. As we build this framework of understanding into our business interactions, we begin to value the transformative impact of empathy in business.
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Why is empathy important?
As we strive to understand why empathy is important, we need a working definition of empathy. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines empathy as “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts and experience of another [person]….” Psychology Today takes the definition of empathy further, stating that humanizing our enemies (ie. empathizing with them) develops our resilience and decreases our suffering. That is, by using empathy to relate to our “enemies,” whether they are friends, coworkers or business competitors with whom we disagree, we’re able to hear the other party’s point-of-view and thereby decrease conflict. As we master how to show empathy, we’re wise to embrace a definition of empathy that shrinks our definition of “enemies” while expanding our capacity for understanding others.
Benefits of empathy in business
When it comes to the benefits of empathy in business, we must embrace the fact that empathy is an important skill to have in any business where you are interacting with not only customers but also employees, vendors and other professionals. People are people, and whatever their professional acumen is, they will sense others’ expressions of empathy both on and off the job. Therefore, it is imperative for small business owners to master interacting empathetically with others so that critical relationships are not damaged.
Why is empathy important? Its benefits are proven by science. Entrepreneur reports that nurturing empathy in business brings numerous benefits, including increased sales, productivity, innovation and competitive advantage. The Center for Creative Leadership reports on additional data supporting the benefits of empathy in business. An analysis of 6,731 managers in 38 countries demonstrated that empathy is positively related to job performance. Specifically, managers who demonstrated empathy received higher performance evaluations by their supervisors than managers without empathy. Importantly, the study also emphasized that empathy can be learned. Therefore, proactive management practices like teaching active listening, encouraging perspective-taking and cultivating compassion are likely to encourage empathy in business.
How to show empathy in business
To become better equipped to embrace empathy in all areas of our lives, let’s look at some practical strategies for how to show empathy in business. When it comes to the benefits of empathy in the business world, let’s look no further than Danny Meyer, Shake Shack’s founder. Meyer runs his (successful) business on an empathy-centered philosophy: Understanding why empathy is important and practicing how to show empathy equate directly to recruiting and keeping raving fans of your product.
Here are some practical steps you can take in how to show empathy on the job:
Use empathy in business to win over difficult people
As ironic as it may sound, championing why empathy is important often hinges on committing to empathy in business for your most difficult customers, partners or employees. The reasoning is straightforward: Since empathy is a human endeavor, empathy in the business world means engaging every human, not just the pleasant ones. Learn to empathize with each and every person you or your staff encounters, and you’ll be well on your way to mastering empathy.
Why is empathy important? Everyone needs understanding
In our day-to-day work lives, it’s so easy to become lost in our own experience. However, to grasp empathy, we must learn to recognize the “invisible sign” hanging around everyone’s neck – the sign that indicates that person’s needs. That is, whether we choose to recognize everyone’s needs or not, the fact remains that everyone needs empathy and understanding. Part of learning how to show empathy means recognizing others’ needs, regardless of their relationship to us.
Practice how to show empathy using the Golden Rule
Why is empathy important? It reflects the Golden Rule – as we practice doing unto others as we wish they’d do unto us, we practice how to show empathy in investigating others’ emotional experiences. In mastering empathy in business and our personal lives, we become able to bring the benefits of empathy to the workplace.
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