Empathy in Business Communication
By Jill Lublin
Jill Lublin, Author, Profit of Kindness: How to Influence Others, Establish Trust, and Build Lasting Business Relationships
Business procedures and management decisions are based on facts and not emotions. As a consequence, business communication strategies are also based on quantifiable factors. This reality makes even the self-proclaimed value-based organizations hard to articulate empathy.
Through improvements in business ethics, leadership styles, working environment, carbon footprint and overall company culture, businesses can turn into empathic organizations. But for public perception to be aligned with the intended good procedures of a company, empathy must also be translated into the messages the company conveys. The same elements applied in developing such kind practices must also spill over the designing of communication plans.
Connectivity through Communication
Building a culture of kindness starts from within. For a company to have meaningful relations with its clients and community, it must start by creating a valuable connection among its employees and managers. As much as they are willing to lead by example, managers must also pass the kindness mentality to their subordinates. It is imperative, then, to communicate to employees what the company does for the world to make it a more positive place. Leaders must actively teach empathy by also letting their staff understand their place in contributing to the company’s mission. And this emotional connection, created by effectively conveying organizational objectives, produces a sense of purpose within the workforce. In an article related to a study conducted by Gallup, Chris Groscurth states that as employees widen their perspective on the role they play in the organization, “they are more likely to stay, take proactive steps to create a safe environment, have higher productivity, and connect with customers to the benefit of the organization.”
Communication is a two-way process—a receiver collects the information you send and vice versa. As much as speaking, then, listening is a vital part of communication. And you can show empathy through your listening skills. Empathetic listeners are active listeners who draw out more information by asking the right questions and following them up with a deeper inquiry. They are open and not defensive even when receiving negative information. They are patient and tolerant even in the most uncomfortable situations. From employee grievances to customer complaints to public negotiations, empathetic listening is crucial in determining how to respond properly, rationally but, at the same time, compassionately. It builds mutual trust and respect, eases tension and encourages a collaborative environment. IDEO, an international design company is one of the exemplars of empathic listening. The award-winning firm uses empathetic listening in understanding their customers, building prototypes and innovating in general.
In any business, you don’t aim for plain customers—you want patrons, avid buyers, and loyal clients. And to keep that lasting relationship, empathy in the form of positive communication is the key. In another study by Gallup, researchers Benson Smith and Tony Rutigliano share how consumers are twelve times more likely to continue repurchasing if they feel emotionally connected to the salesperson. By consistently performing simple yet effective communication techniques, such deeper connection to customers may be cultivated. After each conversation, paraphrase or summarize what has been discussed. This assures the other person that you have listened to and understood him/her. Practice being good with names—try hard to use the person’s name when conversing and delight him/her with the feeling of being well-regarded. There are also equally helpful nonverbal strategies. Your mere smile, for instance, can change your own mood as well as other people’s moods. Looking at the person when s/he is talking demonstrates respect and patience. While mirroring the person’s body language gives off the impression that you are on the same page.
During a company’s transformation into an empathic organization, it is important to align every aspect of the business, especially communication—an essential element in crafting and strengthening relationships. Incorporating empathy into your daily communication approaches ensure consistency of attitude and behavior across the workforce and through your stakeholders, towards the formation of an empathetic culture.