em·pa·thy ' ˈempəTHē/' :
the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
In the conversations I’m having lately when discussing communications and social media, I’m trying to remind people of the importance of empathy.
It’s a character trait that is becoming more and more extinct in our current culture.
It is the root of communicating effectively and the basis of good marketing and customer service. If your customer feels like you are understanding them, or at least trying to understand them, they will reward you for it.
I always ask myself, when working with clients; when talking with people; when giving presentations - what are THEY thinking/feeling as I talk with them. I was reminded everyday working in politics how important empathy was. It goes along with the saying,
“Its not what you say, its what they hear.”
As the picture above so accurately also reflects, going into any situation where you have to communicate with someone, ask yourself, how can you see the world through their lens or perspective? How can you relate to what they're most likely thinking? How can you make that person feel like you’re hearing them and listening to them… before you decide to share your opinion?
A classic example we’re working on right now in the agri-food sector is with consumers and the misinformation they believe about their food. I constantly remind myself, and those around me, that instead of placing blame solely on the consumer, take back the responsibility of why consumers may not know where their food comes from.
Try and see things from their perspective. If they are a generation remove from the farm, live in an urban centre and see no effective advertisements, pop-ups or videos on a daily basis featuring how their food got from the farm to their fork, how should we expect them to know what is right and what is wrong in terms of food truths? Perhaps once we’re more empathetic and open to understanding where consumers are coming from, we can get into their heads to know what information they want to hear and how they want to have those messages delivered to them.
Empathy. Its our communications secret weapon that we don’t use often enough. If we start using this secret weapon more, it could just change our communications game and ultimately, the outcome.