Selling with empathy requires a nuanced understanding of what empathy looks and feels like. Unlike sympathy, which can cultivate feelings of sorrow and pity, empathy requires a sense of shared equality. Sympathy tends to create an uneven power dynamic that drives people apart, while empathy unites people through shared experiences.
According to entrepreneur Joey Pomerenke, empathy is defined as, “the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions; and the ability to share someone else’s feelings.”
So what does this look like in the context of business? Consider guidelines from professor, lecturer, and author Brené Brown, who specializes in vulnerability and its relationship with empathy. She outlines the four following principles of empathy:
- Understanding life from someone else’s perspective.
- Listening, paying attention, and avoiding judgment or shame.
- Identifying a familiar emotion in someone else.
- Sharing with someone the fact that you feel, see, and hear that emotion.
Empathy is important as a small business owner because it helps you truly understand what the customer desires. When you really feel what they are feeling — and communicate that connection to them — you’re showing them that you care. What’s equally as important is that empathy enables you to resonate with a certain challenge and its associated emotion — and, ideally, an appropriate solution.
In turn, you can more accurately solve the customer’s problem in a way that feels personalized to them. This makes the customer feel seen and heard while also ensuring that your energy and resources are accurately directed towards efficient problem solving.