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Do you want a ROE (Return on Empathy)?

Being Empathetic can lead to bad decisions.”

Empathy can lead to distress and burnout in your own life.”

“Empathetic leaders are considered weak.”

There is only so much empathy that we can have.”

“Empathy is overrated.”

Have you felt or heard any of these sentiments around empathy?

Let me start by asking a question. In which category would your organization fall? A B2B, a B2C, a C2C or a C2B? 

With whatever answer you have, would it be wrong if I said, that every organization is an H2H (Human to Human) organization? 

All the businesses, small or big, involve dealing with people whether it is outside or inside the organization. And hence it pays, in this hyper connected business environment, to have focus on the empathy factor and not just on the ROI. However, with resource crunch and competitive business environment, the focus always shifts on achieving the results and pushing the bottom line. If empathy is understood correctly and the ROE (Return On Empathy) is emphasized enough, maybe it will make for an appealing proposition.

Yes, empathy is a cliched term. And the simple definition of ‘Being in other person’s shoes’, fails to make an appropriate impact. 

Let me illustrate examples of two professionals Riya and Rishabh. Both of them ace at their performances and hence both are promoted as team leads, handling teams for the first time as managers.

Riya is very objective, confident, strong headed and expects only the best. She directs people and doesn’t find enough time or patience to listen to them. 

Rishabh on the other hand is very friendly, he has built a great rapport with the team in a short time. But the challenging decisions are not taken seriously, and timelines suffer.

If I were to ask you, who would be successful as a manager? 

Well the answer would be none. We need a right balance to upturn the dangers of being emotionally empathetic.

Empathy actually comes from a German word Einfühlung, meaning “feeling in.” And just as there are so many ways to feel, there are various ways to experience empathy.

Psychologists have defined that there are three types of empathy

  1. Emotional Empathy
  2. Cognitive Empathy
  3. Compassionate Empathy
  1. Emotional Empathy – ‘I feel what you are feeling’

This empathy is called ‘emotional contagion’. You catch the emotions of the people involved and mirror it as your own.

Positive: You can readily understand the emotions of the other person and build a good rapport and trust.

Negative: Can cause empathy overload leading to poor decisions or distress

2. Cognitive Empathy- ‘I can understand why you are feeling that way’

This empathy is called ‘perspective taking’. You can see and understand how the person is feeling without engaging in the emotions.

Positive: You can use it in business situations like negotiations or in motivation, where understanding the diverse viewpoint can help you deal better for win-win situations.  

Negative: Can ignore deep emotions or manipulate based on information.

3. Compassionate Empathy- ‘I can understand your feelings. How about if you/I can sort it out by….?’

This empathy is called ‘balancing mindfulness with compassion’. It is the most appropriate as it involves understanding about other person’s perspective and most crucially takes action to resolve the problem. 

It’s a balance that needs to be worked upon. Finding your own sweet spot that works for your relationships.

Some tips to build compassionate empathy

  1. Listen Actively even to things not being said through tone and body language
  2. Be mindfully present
  3. Delay judgements and advice.
  4. Encourage people to talk and ask more questions.
  5. Create regular touchpoints – to engage with people

If engaged with the people in the right way, the ROE (Returns On Empathy) are ample.

  1. Loyalty and Trust : Leading to more support, referrals and sales
  2. Accountability and Ownership : Boosts productivity via more responsiveness,  creativity and innovation
  3. Happy Work Culture: Fuels better communication, collaboration, lesser conflicts and lesser stress
  4. Competitive Advantage: Elevates better customer need understanding and be more proactive 
  5. Organization growth and long term success

Real Empathy moves from storytelling to storydoing. Anyone who invests in empathy, devotes to understanding the emotional needs of the stakeholders and aligns to meet them. A tangible ROE is guaranteed through lasting relationships, customer value, employee retention and resilience that is so crucial in the current times.

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