Sympathy vs. Empathy

Every internet guru and "social media entrepreneur" these days seems to be talking about "empathy" or–even better–"tactical empathy".

But what is it all about? It sounds cool, but how do we become more empathetic in a way that helps our brand or business?

I think it helps to understand the difference between sympathy and empathy.

As defined by the dictionary, sympathy is harmony of or agreement in feeling, as between persons or on the part of one person with respect to another.

Whereas empathy is: the psychological identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.

So our empathy in business, branding, and even negotiation isn't agreeing with the feelings or ideas of the people with whom you're connecting. That's sympathy. We're not in the business of giving out hugs.

The empathy we need to put forth is that we begin to understand the situation from the other person's perspective. We make the attempt to look at our brand, our work, our customer service, etc... from their eyes.

– Do people want to watch your totally awesome 45 minutes long YouTube video? Or do people really only have 8 minutes to give?

– Are the 48 hours wait for a return email from your customer service email form breed anxiety and anger in your customers? Wouldn't they be better served with a hotline they can call and get questions answered instantly?

– Do your cringe-inducing and provocative tweets drive people from wanting to work with you and alter your brand (the way people see you)? Would you not be better served to do some market research and see what your followers and viewers actually want to see from you?

I think the difficulty of true empathy is that it requires us to set ourselves and our ego aside and really care about serving our viewers, customer, or clients.

It's not easy, but if you begin doing it, you'll realize it changes everything in your business.