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Light Reading for the Heavy Heart: Intentionally Cultivating Empathy

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“Some people are naturally empathetic. They easily understand another’s point of view, and they immediately grok what another might be feeling in any scenario. If that is you, congrats; you’re ahead of the game. The rest of us have to work a little harder, and a little more intentionally, to get into the customer mind-set.”

Ann Handley

How often have we encountered people who don’t get us. They just don’t understand. Our inner child stomps off and says, “You don’t understand! You never will!” Sometimes our adult child says the same.

What is the barrier between two people understanding one another? Empathy. Unfortunately, empathy doesn’t come pre-installed in our minds and emotions. It’s something that has to be intentionally cultivated.

In “Everybody Writes,” Ann Handley talks about empathy in the customer journey. It’s hard to understand what the customer is going through as they approach your business — our businesses — my business. We think they know as much as we do. We’re not our customer. We’re too educated. We’re not far enough away from our product or our service. We’re too close to the forest. We see nothing. Yet, we think we see everything.

The only way to develop empathy is to put ourselves — as best we can — in their proverbial shoes. Learning a new skill separate from our services often helps. Learning how to learn is a good way to cultivate empathy.

Listening to listen and not to respond exercises our empathy muscle. Active listening is another skill that doesn’t come preinstalled. Wouldn’t it be nice if it did?

And yet, here we all are. We are living with family. We live near our neighbors. We’re part of a local community. We’re part of an industry. We’re all on this blue dot traveling through space at 67,000 miles per hour.

Do we want people to listen to us? Do we want to be heard? Do we want to be understood? Do we want to know and be known? To love and be loved?

Today’s Thought

I am a listener. I care about people around me. I want to understand them. I am curious. I ask questions to help me develop empathy. I am a value to my community. I want to know and be known.

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