Empathy: A key to connection, a key to business success

Empathy. This word has become commonplace in mainstream culture. Like all words, though, it has collected a host of connotations (i.e. it is weak to empathize) and misunderstandings (i.e. being confused with sympathy). But empathy, as described by Irvin Yalom, an existential psychiatrist, is being able to look outside another person’s window. It is to be other-centered. It is the basis for vital human connection. 

Research in the field of neuroscience has confirmed the impact of this attribute. Studies have shown that people’s brains “light up” in the same regions during experiences of empathy (see mirror neurons. Medical News Today; APA). In addition, empathy can improve trust, communication, and reconciliation, as cited by Psychology Today. Conclusively, when people feel understood – even to the slightest degree – they experience connection and with connection often comes other prosocial behaviors, like kindness. In sum, empathy keeps the cycle of positive human interactions going. 

So, what does all of this have to do with business success? Well, nearly everything. Yes, the numbers, strategies, and vision and mission statements are all important. But those things are fulfilled by people, for people. Therefore, understanding another person’s worldview and lived experiences informs the bottom-line. Think back, how many times have you wished that the store clerk, the bill collector, the customer, the business owner, the boss, the colleague, or the [fill in the blank] had understood your viewpoint or what you were going through? If they had, how would that have made a difference for you? When businesses truly invest in the people of their foundation, the people of their foundation will invest in them. Empathy can help pave the way.