Oct 30th, 2013

On Empathy (or Why Loving Someone Is Easy)

We talked about empathy quite a bit here at The Heretic. You need deep customer empathy to build products your customers not only want but desire and love. You should also operate from a place of empathy when dealing with your cofounders and employees.

Yesterday, at a leadership workshop, someone asked me how you deal with people who are “hard to deal with”. We all know these people in our lives — we dread interactions with them, we have all sorts of preconceived notions about them and in general they make our lives miserable. For a lot of us the emotional “go-to-place” is confrontational — which makes things only worse (for both sides). When these people are only a short part of an interaction this might be fine (though still not pleasant), when they are partners, coworkers or employees we find ourselves in a world of hurt.

A few weeks ago, at a coaching seminar I attended, the seminar leader said something very profound which changed my view of this situation — and in turn changed my whole outlook:

“It’s easy for me to love you. And that doesn’t mean that I like you.”

Humans are hardwired to love other members of our species. It’s a survival instinct. Coming from a place of love (and thus empathy) for someone is easy — as long as you don’t confuse love with liking: I can dearly love you and thus have deep empathy for you without liking you.

Try it out. It will make your life much easier, your interactions richer & better and make you a much better leader.

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