Do Women Rule When It Comes to Empathy?

Let’s begin by clarifying what empathy is not — it is not sharing someone’s feelings and experiences — that’s sympathy.  Empathy is an understanding or awareness of someone else’s feelings.

Considered to be one of the essential qualities in effective leadership, empathy has been predominantly assigned to women, who excel in their ability to effectively listen.  In business, especially in the current stressful economic climate, where layoffs and cutbacks happen every day, empathetic behavior has tremendous value.

The value of leveraging empathy –

Zig Ziglar summed up the relationship between empathy and credibility when he said, “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” A willingness to try to understand what it’s like to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes builds trust, not only with your employees, but also with your customers.  You demonstrate that you sincerely care.  Listening to the needs of others not only increases connectivity, but can open your mind to possibilities you might not have otherwise considered.

Tips to enhance empathy –

Women tend to be naturally empathetic, but we can all work on honing this skill when our ultimate desire is to serve others through our work.  I’d like to share my top 6 tips to help you enhance your ability to demonstrate empathy in your business:

  1. Work on your active listening skills.  It’s not a matter of simply parroting back what someone said, you must convey that you understand what they meant.  That requires focus and turning off the little voice inside your own head.
  2. Make time.  Life can be very busy, but a huge part of being empathetic is making yourself available to others.
  3. Be Authentic.  Nothing is worse that opening up to someone only to discover that they were in it to advance their own agenda.  Empathy requires authenticity, so don’t go overboard trying to be someone you really aren’t.  Your customers can smell insincerity a mile away.
  4. Reach out.  Don’t sit around waiting for people to come to you.  Get into the habit of checking in with your customers and employees just to see how they are doing and if there’s anything you can do for them.
  5. Keep an open mind. You’re not always going to agree with someone else’s ideas or perspective on things, but that doesn’t mean you should be unwilling to consider another point of view.
  6. Take ownership of your own stuff.  Next to active listening, this is the biggest tip I can offer.  Be humble enough to admit when you are wrong or when you make a mistake.  No one’s perfect and your customers know that applies to you too.  So be a big girl and take responsibility.  As the business owner, the buck stops with you.

I’ve been trying to keep my posts a bit shorter lately because I know how much we all have to read each day.  But I do hope that you gained some value from today’s topic and I would love to hear your comments.

© 2010 Reece International LLC/Dr. Shannon Reece. All rights reserved.


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Dr. Shannon Reece – The One Trusted Woman in a Man’s Business World

Starting your own business can be tough, but having the right tools makes all the difference.  Dr. Reece provides the strategies and tactics women need to get their businesses from zero to launch and achieve real results.  For more information visit

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