There’s an often-quoted phrase about not judging someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.
As Toni Sorenson says,
“Walking a mile in someone else’s shoes isn’t as much about the walk or the shoes; it’s to be able to think like they think, feel what they feel, and understand why they are who and where they are. Every step is about empathy.”
You may be wondering, what does empathy have to do with business?
It has EVERYTHING to do with business.
Most business owners are attuned to what they think their customers and clients need, not what their customers actually want – they don’t truly listen to their customers.
Or at best, they only listen on a surface level and then try and educate them that they need something different.
When you have this attitude you don’t connect with your customers.
Compassion is probably the most valuable business skill you can learn.
A proactive intentional empathy for your clients.
Putting yourself in their shoes, imagining what it’s like to be them, with their problems, their hopes and ambitions, their challenges, their wants and desires.
To spend some time and really imagine what it’s like to be another human being, what motivates them, what challenges them.
When you do that and see things from your customers perspective, not just yours, then it is so much easier to serve them. To market to them, to sell to them.
How does it make you feel when businesses try to sell you what they want to sell you, not what you want to buy?
Imagine it’s late on a Friday afternoon, you’ve had a totally shitty week.
If it could go wrong, it went wrong.
You’ve called it a day, you’re tired, your head hurts and you just want to veg and chill in front of some mindless tv and forget about it all.
You decide to go to the supermarket because you fancy some comfort food for your dinner, a bottle of wine and a big tub of ice cream.
When you get to the supermarket, you can’t find the pizza, the wine or the ice cream.
It’s all been removed from the shelves.
You’re like, “WTF? What’s going on? Why can’t I buy what I want? Don’t they understand I NEED comfort food right now…”
An assistant comes over and says, “We don’t sell that stuff anymore, it’s not good for you. What you need is a nutritious salad, if you want something sweet, have a little fruit, preferably some berries as they are not so high in sugar content, and some water, or if you want a hot drink, a peppermint tea. By the way, it’s best to eat the fruit first.”
How would you feel? Pretty pissed right?
You’ve just had the week from hell, and now to cap it all you can’t even buy a pizza, ice cream and some wine because of the health police!
What would you do?
You’re going to stomp right out of there and go somewhere that sells you what you want aren’t you, feeling even more hacked off and wondering what else is going to go wrong…
Where is the empathy in that scenario, the understanding of how the client is feeling right then, what they want, desire?
Of course, the salad would be much better for us, and in many ways would probably make you feel better in the longer term.
But that isn’t what we want right now, in that moment. It isn’t going to solve our urgent pressing problem of feeling better with a simple pleasure after a totally crap week.
Yet this is the equivalent to what so many businesses do.
They don’t seek to solve the clients urgent pressing need.
They seek to sell what they think is best for the client.
Want to make more money?
Then learn to give people what they want and in a tasteful, compassionate way, give them what they need.
Spend some time imagining what their life is like, putting yourself in their shoes, walk a mile in their shoes.
You’ll be amazed at what you discover and it will be truly worth it.