I have been struggling with the idea that we need more empathy at work and in our lives for a while now. After reading Paul Bloom’s book, Against Empathy, and the work of other researchers, I was torn. And this came through a speech I worked on a few years back, trying to support why we needed to be more empathetic towards customers. The toss-up was if I was truly communicating that I was on the side of empathy or compassion. People who were critiquing my speech told me to go with compassion because it sounded like that was where I was at in the speech. However, people in my field were and are pro-empathy. So not to be an oddball, I went with empathy. But something always felt off.
Watching work and world events the past few years, I have concluded that the fight for helping others to “see the way” with empathy is fruitless. Empathy is “the act of coming to experience the world as you think someone else does.” You know how hard that is to encourage others to do? And how hard it is to do and be at work every single day? Imagine working in a call center trying to understand the emotions and motivations of every single caller. It’s not realistic to expect any human to be empathetic all day, every day. We are human beings, not human emotion factories.
So back to my old friend compassion. Why have I turned to think this is better? Because you can include compassion in a work process. I started my career in a call center with engineers. We created a work environment where the engineers were compassionate and respectful to each other. It changed everything. When I work with clients, I try to identify pain and suffering among employees or customers to find ways to ease their suffering and make the experience better. Sure, I try to understand people’s motivations. But does everyone else in the organization? And do they need to? Or should they be more focused on making life better for others?
Again, most companies have ways to be compassionate already built in to their operations – ways to improve experiences for others. If we had more ways to remind people of what it means to have compassion, or the desire to help others solve their problems, we’d be in a better place. Heck, one of my favorite methodologies is “jobs to be done.” That is compassion at work and for customers in a nutshell. You are literally finding ways to wow customers by solving their problems. So with that in mind – enjoy these videos and articles!