Empathy is one of the most central ingredients of who I am and how I operate. It’s what helps me communicate contextually. It’s what feeds my curiosity and my social listening. It’s been so foundational to my life and business that I even named my wine project after it.
My wine company Empathy Wines sold to Constellation Brands, the trait behind it remains a core part of how I live my life today. Like many soft skills, people tend to think of empathy as a “nice to have” instead of a need. I’m hoping to change that.
By the end of this blog post, I hope that people begin to understand just how important empathy is in every area, from human connections to business tactics.
What is Empathy?
The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
Throughout my career, many people have given me credit for being a great “predictor” or seeing things coming. The truth is, my ability to call things early on from up-and-coming social media platforms to good investments isn’t about magic or luck — it’s about empathy.
Empathy has been behind most of my big decisions from investing my life savings in Facebook and Twitter when everyone told me they would flop, to today, when I am encouraging my community to get educated on NFTs, even when the some people in society are still mocking, doubting, and ignoring.
“When you’re empathetic, you recognize why people behave the way they do.” – Twelve and a Half: Leveraging the Emotional Ingredients Necessary for Business Success
Empathy helps me to understand what makes other people tick — their feelings, their likes and dislikes, their wants and needs, their insecurities. That uncanny sense of human behavior helps me to understand a lot about attention, where it’s going, and what that means for us as a society.
When you’re able to leverage empathy in business, it makes you a better business owner, CEO, manager, or leader. When you’re able to leverage empathy in life, it makes you a better parent, friend, partner, and just all-around human being.
Having Empathy Versus Actually Using It
It’s one thing to have empathy; it’s an entirely separate thing to deploy it to bring value to other people.
Empathy in life
“Empathy is the ingredient that provides the answers to the test. When you can feel what another is feeling, you develop an extraordinary ability to manipulate human beings. I believe it’s the ultimate superpower. You can create carnage with it, or you can use it to uplift the world…” – Twelve and a Half: Leveraging the Emotional Ingredients Necessary for Business Success
Recognizing that empathy gives you the power to sway others is actually a huge opportunity to do good and create value for everyone involved.
Empathy in business
Five years ago, I wrote this blog — Empathy: One of the Keys to My Business Success. Today, all of those words still ring true. That blog goes super in-depth into how empathy can be deployed from a tactical standpoint in everything from sales to HR and B2C strategy, so you should definitely give it a read…but ultimately, it all comes down to what I’m about to say.
The best leaders and CEOs are empathetic. Why? They understand that it’s about more than being a caring person, it’s about taking your understanding of another person or group of people and using it to create a win-win scenario. Empathy allows me to really care and think about what the client, customer, or target audience is thinking. That helps me in sales, it helps me to be likable, it helps me navigate, it helps me make decisions about products and services…it helps me so much and it helps the other party, too.
On the other hand, it’s also important to balance empathy with letting people learn things on their own, especially in a business context. For example, when two of my employees have a disagreement or conflict, I might intuitively know the answers to what would improve or fix the situation. That being said, I still want to give them the opportunity to figure it out for themselves. Like with all of the 12.5 ingredients, it’s about deploying the right balance of traits at the right time.
Why I Have Empathy for my “Haters”
I actually think that everyone deserves empathy — even “haters.” I find that a lot of people are so quick to throw hate back at the haters, but I say, do the opposite. Have massive amounts of empathy for them, because they need it the most.
When someone leaves a nasty comment about you, it’s easy to get defensive or to take it personally. That’s when you have to remember that comments often reflect what’s going on in the inside. People receiving negative comments should take a step back and deploy compassion, but you can only do that once you first have empathy to understand why that person left a negative comment in the first place.
“I deploy empathy and kindness against hate because I know it takes more strength to be empathetic. From the outside, people think that those who come with negativity and aggression have the advantage in the interaction. I know it’s the reverse.” – Twelve and a Half: Leveraging the Emotional Ingredients Necessary for Business Success
Once you figure out that it often has very little to do with you, it’s easy not to care and to respond with kindness.
Empathy for Yourself Matters the Most
Finally, it’s important to remember that you have to start with yourself. It will be extremely hard to understand someone else’s feelings if you don’t understand your own. This is why I make the point in Twelve and a Half that self-awareness — and by association, self-acceptance and self-love — go hand in hand with empathy. In other words, if you’re not understanding with yourself, it’s unlikely that you’ll be understanding with others.
I talk a lot about not looking back and not dwelling on your mistakes or failures. That’s because I want every one of you to have empathy for yourselves. You’re not lost, you’re just early in the process, and the sooner you understand that, the sooner you’ll be able to see the value of empathy in your own life and the lives of those around you.
Too many people are mad at others without even thinking about where they’re coming from. Too many people are saying “no” instead of “yes” or “maybe.” Too many are judging new ideas or opportunities without doing research or understanding the larger context. Empathy can change all of that ❤️
Thank you so much for reading this week’s blog. Don’t forget to let me know your thoughts on Twitter and share on your favorite platform.