Empathy – A Business Owner’s Greatest Strength

by | Jul 1, 2020 | Marketing Tips, Reflections, StoryBrand

With all of the things going on in the world today (COVID-19, Black Live Matter, etc.), I’ve been reflecting a lot on what empathy should look like in our businesses. I speak to a lot of different business owners every week and hear them express concerns – both on personal and business levels.

As business owners wrestle with what their marketing should look like during this season, they are looking for a guide – someone who understands their problem and can show them a way out of it. 

Your customers are looking for a guide too. 

They want a guide who expresses empathy. Empathy shows someone that you have taken into account their pains and frustrations. It establishes trust. If you can develop your sense of empathy in your business, it will be your greatest strength.

One of my favorite resources on empathy is from the great Brené Brown. If you’re looking to explore the idea of empathy in your personal life, I’d highly recommend this video. While Brené’s video discusses how to enter into someone else’s pain so we can be a good friend, there are so many takeaways that we can use in business:

1. Empathy is feeling “with people.” When people are feeling a certain way, connect with them by telling them that you understand how they feel so they know they’re not alone.
2. Don’t ignore what they’re feeling and don’t try to give it a silver lining.
3. Focus more on saying something that creates a connection than saying the “right” thing.

If you need some language to use around empathetic listening, here’s a graphic by Keeley Shawart/

A key thing about being a guide is that you don’t want to express empathy in the area that you are authoritative. For example, I’d never want a car mechanic to say “Wow, I get that making car repairs are hard; every time I fix my engine it seems to break.” That would be incredibly worry-some! I want a car mechanic who is confident about fixing my car and is a competent mechanic. 

Instead, he could say things like “Wow, I can only imagine that it’s frustrating to have your car breakdown.” OR “Is there anything else that’s concerning you about your car?”

In our business, I often will ask prospective clients (or current clients) these questions: 

“What part of your marketing is bothering you the most?”
“Wow, I can only imagine how frustrating is to not get the results you want.”
“Is there anything you wish I had asked but I missed?”

Sometimes if a client is hesitant to outsource their marketing, I’ll share with them how I too know it can be scary to trust someone else with a piece of their business. The first time I outsourced a task, I hired a bookkeeper. I suddenly knew exactly why some of my clients were hesitant when they first hired our team. It’s hard to trust that someone will care for your business as much as you do!

In both of these cases, I am not creating doubt in anyone’s mind about our services or products. Instead, the hope is that they feel heard and understood so that we can begin to foster a working relationship built on trust.

In my personal opinion, empathy is one of the best qualities a guide can have. (It’s also an excellent quality in humans.) And in a season of so much uncertainty in the world, our customers need to know we have their back!