Empathy: More than Feelings

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  • by Amee Patel

At Seek, we had ourselves typed through the Enneagram, and discovered that more than half of the company fell into the 2 Category. This type scores high in expressing their feelings. It made so much sense. Every now and then, I find myself thinking I really don’t want to deal with feelings today. (Shout out to my 2s – I love you guys, I promise). I just want to get my work done, get through the day, and attempt to show up for all the people in my life that are relying on me. Sometimes, it’s hard to slow down and try to process every emotional interaction that comes my way.

And often, in early client engagements, I know that’s what people are thinking to themselves – betrayed by their skeptical looks, sighs, or even blatant expression of said feeling (I respect the feedback immensely). It’s a fair point. Feelings are messy, complicated, subjective, and exhausting. When you’re trying to keep your own life in check – mind the feelings of all your loved ones – is it really worth finding the space to explore the feelings of a consumer that you’ll meet once and probably never see again?

Yes. It totally is. And here’s why.

We spend a lot of time up front in our interviews just focusing on the life of the person we’re meeting. Who they are, how they got to that place in life, hopes, dreams, failures, accomplishments. As a curious person and aspiring novel writer (one day!), it’s like a gold mine of stories that elucidate the depth of the human experience. It amazes me every single time that we can see so many different people from varied walks of life, and find similarities. I am heartened by so many truths I’ve compiled over the years – how much people love their families, how resilient they are, how hard people work to make it, and how proud they are (and should be) of their achievements. And at the same time it makes me ache – the struggles to make ends meet, the stories of unbearable loss, the folks in the middle who are trying their best and simply just can’t get there. You sit with all of that, and sometimes the value and weight are overwhelming.

Why does this matter?

All of these things add up to create filters of perception. And perception is absolutely everything. As brands, we hold certain things to be true, to anchor our position in the marketplace, to tell the world the story that we believe to be most important about what we do and why we can serve them well. But the consumer’s perception determines whether that is seen as authentic and real, or simply a ploy to sell. And these folks are increasingly more determined to find their truths themselves.

As we all know from our own lives, perceptions are shaped by experiences. Experiences are highly emotional. Emotions are rarely logical. Each data point collected from a consumer offers you the opportunity to piece together their perceptions; to create a mosaic filter of a slew of consumers that helps you to see from the other side. Through this filter, you can look at the business you know so well through their lens, and understand the truths, the gaps, and the opportunities for you to communicate and provide better for them. To contextualize the role that your brand plays in their lives – however small or big, it’s likely you don’t know the weight of it from your desk. So get out and step over the threshold into their homes and lives. The view from there will always be eye-opening, and regularly unforgettable.

Amee Patel is the Director of Innovation Strategy here at Seek Company. If you’re interested in deepening your team’s ability to foster empathy with those they serve, we can help you. Reach out to INFO@SEEKCOMPANY.COM to discuss that, or to engage in dialogue based on this post. We are always up to continue the conversation.