In today’s blog we will focus on the third of five strategies great problem-solvers use to break through their challenges: adopting empathy, and how this useful tool is both misunderstood and a valuable asset to your quiver of business skills. As a quick reminder from our first problem-solving article, here are the five mutually-reinforcing problem-solving strategies seem to underly the success of the world’s leading problem solvers:
- Don’t accept the first description of a problem as the actual core issue
- Be curious about every dynamic of an issue
- Maintain an empathetic view of the world, to see through multiple lenses
- Ensure an agreed upon definition of the issue is reached before any discussions on potential solution strategies
- Use story telling to generate a compelling call to action.
Strategy #3: Use Empathy to Gain Financial Insights
As a concept, empathy is somewhat of a cliché. Like most overused words there is real value at its core, the problem is that most people aren’t willing to put in the work to discover what benefits it can provide for their business and financial insight.
The opportunity for anyone willing to adopt a more expansive perspective is significant. Most notably is the ability to present similar information to different individuals to obtain more pervasive understanding and agreement. This improved agreement ratio leads to less conflict and a stronger understanding in both parties of your company’s financial landscape.
Another benefit empathy can provide is an increased understanding of the complexities involved in a challenge. Often we value certain challenges higher when we better understand the details. The same goes for another person or party seeing a different dynamic in a problem with greater clarity. Just because our background and financial knowledge help us see one part of a problem more clearly than another person doesn’t mean it is more valuable. A discussion founded in empathy can help you gain greater clarity on topics you were less clear on.
A third opportunity in using empathy to solve your financial problems is the ability to define the actual item of disagreement and compartmentalise it. Often we disagree at macro levels when in reality we agree on nearly everything but a few specific details. By carving these out, teams often have the ability to solve important problems and not involve the conflicted items. However, it is difficult to navigate the unpacking of these issues without adopting an empathetic approach to maintain open, productive dialogue.
Despite the risk of empathy becoming a cliché, it is frequently being identified as the super-skill for humans as we move into an ever more digitally-interactive world. We tend to remove personal connection through emails and messaging apps, and face-to-face meetings – the easiest way to create an empathetic connection – are becoming a rarity. But even through a computer or phone screen you can read between the lines, reach out and open up a dialogue that allows for a place of empathy.
Quick Empathy Hack
When you want to create a good dose of empathy, practice asking yourself the following questions:
Any of these questions can help you avoid judgement of the other person. This will give you additional space to identify viable and effective financial solutions that both parties can implement. Empathy can cause emotions to arise, but it is often the best pathway to understanding the emotions of others and how they might affect their perspective of a particular financial issue. By actively seeking this alternative perspective, you both actively recognise the value of your staff members and gain a wider point of view, and possibly a better financial solution.
Enjoy the positive emotions and insights that come from pushing the use of empathy over snap judgements!
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