Join the Conversation about Empathy in Action: A Message from Dr. Natalie Petouhoff

George Orwell. Now there’s an interesting character. I have always admired him, but not for the reasons you might think. They say empathy is about “stepping into other people’s shoes”. To write Down and Out in Paris and London, Orwell dressed up in shabby shoes and a coat to work and live like those on the social margins. The result? A radical experience changing his beliefs, priorities, relationships, and creating some of his finest work.

Today we are on the heels of much-needed global change, and at the same time, there’s a bandwagon everyone has jumped on. Its name? Empathy. It’s being used in marketing and advertising slogans. But are companies really changing anything other than perhaps a tagline?

As author and speaker Brené Brown explains, there’s a palpable difference between empathy and sympathy. The first fuels connection and the latter instigates disconnection. When someone is down and out a sympathetic response would be, “Oh yeah, it’s bad all right. Sorry about that.”

Empathy on the other hand is when someone says, “I’m stuck. It’s dark. I’m overwhelmed” that we climb down into that hole with them. And we affirm them by divulging, “I know what it’s like down here. You are not alone. I get it. I’m here to help.” And you do.

Sympathy is easy. It doesn’t require much of us. But Empathy. Empathy is a choice and a vulnerable one at that. To connect with you, I must connect to something in myself that resonates with those feelings which then enables me to make a connection with you and to help.

In my many career choices over the years, from rocket science to PR, to analyst and business executive, I’ve been in the unique position to experience and study human behavior from many different angles. And today, in this emotional climate, everyone is certainly questioning everything and yearning for more.

But when companies respond with empty promises it feels as hollow as it is. Empathy needs to be much more than a slogan. It needs to be a sincere business strategy because we are at an economic breaking point, one from which there’s no turning back. For years I’ve known what’s at stake. And time and time again, I’ve observed opportunities for real change.

Most of us spend 75% of our waking hours working and often spend our scarce free time arguing with companies. Yet brands still tend to create experiences that result in three main feelings: amazing, neutral, or horrible. And we’ve all experienced them. When it’s bad, it’s often really bad. And when it’s great, it’s really great. But that’s rare. And that is sad.

I’ve spoken to hundreds of thousands of customers, employees, and executives, and published many articles and books as a result. But I’ve yet to witness the level of change needed and wanted. If only there was a way to take a stand. It wasn’t until I met @TonyBates, at Genesys, that I felt that just maybe, this time I could make that difference. I quickly discerned I was working with someone who was heartfelt, genuine, and authentic. And he, like I, had also been curious about empathy and its role in business.

Our conversations and connection became the seed of what we are launching today with our book Empathy in Action. It’s the birth of a transformation, long overdue. It starts with companies putting an end to creating experiences at the effect of short-term profits. Living in this new experience economy means that businesses are no longer B2C or B2B or B2B2C — it all boils down to B2E, where “E” stands for empathy.

As we brainstormed, we wondered “How can companies run their businesses from the vantage point of the two most important assets of their business – the employees and their customers—and become even more successful?” And that’s what this book is about: transforming everything about a business from the customer/employee point of view – that is – putting empathy into action.

The book provides an unprecedented and unparalleled combination of fresh, groundbreaking business criteria — financial metrics, new customer/employee business strategies, leadership, and organizational models, and exponential customer and employee experience technology — that if used properly can transform the business landscape forever.

We invite business leaders everywhere to become part of a global dialogue where we challenge and re-examine business; where those discussions instigate a customer and employee respect movement that drives tangible change. It’s my honor to have co-written this book with Tony and we look forward to hearing from you:

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