All wars begin because of one thing. Romantic break-ups, political disagreements, family fall-outs, religious persecution… all because we lack EMPATHY:
The ability to put ourselves in the shoes of others.
If you want a successful marriage, if you want a successful business partnership, if you want a successful marketing campaign with your clients or customers – the key is empathy. It’s not about convincing someone else what you want, but it’s finding what the other person needs. And the only way to do that is to put yourself in their shoes.
I had an old friend contact me the other day for coffee. I hadn’t seen him in years and thought it would be good to catch up. But the moment we sat down, he goes into a pitch on something he’s trying to sell me. He only cared about what he wanted at that moment. He could care less about what I needed. And I haven’t talked to him since. A much wiser decision would’ve been to catch up, build a relationship, get to know me on a personal level and find out if I even needed what he was offering.
Why do we have such a hard time with empathy? I think mostly because it’s difficult. It takes work. It’s much easier for us to corner ourselves off in this black and white world where we are always right. Where the world revolves around us. Where all relationships exist to help us reach our goals.
Just about every time I see my step-dad, we argue over politics. He tries to convince me that his political beliefs are “right” and mine are “wrong.” I always kind of laugh and shrug it off (he doesn’t care for this response). But what does he gain from me agreeing with him? What does he lose by me disagreeing with him?
Because the moment we clash with someone who might have a different perspective, our black and white world becomes grey and all those walls we’ve built up around ourselves crumble.
Being empathetic is being vulnerable.
It’s not enough to just assume what the other person wants (humans are really bad guessers) but we have to actually communicate to find that out. Listen to your clients. Listen to your spouse. Don’t try to impose your view on them, but accept their view as their own and figure out how you can serve that view.
We all come from different walks of life and we are going to have different needs, but it’s important to realize that it doesn’t make one person wrong and one person right, it just makes us different. And we have to celebrate those differences, not impose our point of view on everyone else.
What can you do differently this week to empathize with your boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, co-worker, boss, mom, dad, brother, sister, friend, neighbor, fan or client?