The Business of Empathy


Coach Dan highlights the importance of empathy and teaches you how to find what good looks like in your business.

Around 30 years ago, during a situation of considerable pain in my business, I was slapped into the realization that there was a very distinct difference between sympathy and empathy. Also, that without the awareness of these differences many business people were getting their rear end handed to them by being taken advantage of in management situations and losing all important sales. The important thing is to clearly understand the difference between empathy and sympathy and apply them appropriately to our own business situations.

So, let’s look at some definitions from my “Coach Dan Street Fighting in Business Dictionary”. I believe that SYMPATHY happens when we allow ourselves to become (emotionally) part of an issue, whether it is our issue or not. We absorb the pain and frustration of someone else’s issues as our own. On the other hand, EMPATHY occurs when we control our emotions; understand the issues but do not get actively involved in its details.

I often use our choice of reactions to any comment pertaining to our economy. This is a classic example of allowing sympathy to affect our judgment and results, or not! To an extent many business people will use these comments to literally get rid of salespeople because of their predictable reaction. We find that in response to a genial, “Hey how’s it going today?”, a client; prospect or colleague knows if their answer is, “Oh business is terrible because the economy sucks so I don’t think I want what you have today!”,  that 9 times out of 10 a salesperson will answer with a “Yeah, I hear that a lot. Sorry I stopped by. I’ll be back when the economy gets better!” Ok, laugh if you want but we’ve all heard a version of that. It is a classic response from the sympathetic mindset of a salesperson or manager. Warning, this can be a deadly place to live. To a business person, many times they’re looking for someone to buy products and services from who have a winning outlook on life and business. Someone to give them hope that it’s not REALLY that bad out there.

Enter the empathetic mindset. To the same statement a very small group of leading salespeople/managers/entrepreneurs will respond quite differently. A typical empathetic response would be, “ I hear what you’re saying and I understand how you feel, and actually many of my best clients felt the same way. However, I have discovered ways to not just survive this economy but to actually thrive in this or any economy. Can we talk about how I do that?”

What a difference! Which mindset do you think will be the most successful?

In business, we must understand the difference between accepting the litany of excuses, or taking the time to identify the relationship between reality and perception. When I meet clients, some of them say that all their problems are because of the bad economy. They say their salesmen are not motivated enough because of the same reason. And, here is what I tell them in an honest and straightforward manner: “I hear you but you are not taking personal responsibility here.”

Today, successful business people have learned that they cannot continue to blame everything on external forces and instead focus on understanding the real issues, move past them and continue on the never ending quest to finding more customers and carving their niche. The fact is that if you don’t learn to think and be empathetic in all that you do, that your competitors who do, WILL find it easy to steal your customers; your prospects and your business.

I believe this is the greatest time in history to be in business. Today is the day to stop “accepting” excuses and lame and empty objections. Today is the day to be the one beam of positive light that may enter the door of your customer; prospect or employees. If you don’t believe in the potential and possibilities of every day, how can you expect anyone else to? I’m constantly reminded of the powerful word rhyme that Zig Zigler always would lay on his listeners and readers. He would look to a crowd and demand that we must eliminate, “Stinkin’ Thinkin’” and constantly conduct a personal “Check-up from the neck-up!”

So the real question today is…SYMPATHY or EMPATHY? Which do you choose?

If you need help with this, let me know. This is what I do and I’m open for business.

Be Great!

Coach Dan


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