Corporate Empathy: Why You Want It, How to Get It, and How to Measure It.

The Paine of Measurement, February 2019

This issue of The Measurement Advisor started about a dozen light-years ago on the planet Minara II during an episode of Star Trek. Yes, I was and always have been a Trekkie, watching it religiously each week on a black and white TV set, while sitting under the dining room table. Not sure why I preferred sitting under the table, rather than at it. My guess is that the carpeted floor was more comfortable than the antique furniture my parents loved so much.

Of all those memorable episodes, “The Empath” has always been one of my favorites. Its mental and emotional gyrations hinged on “Gem,” a mute humanoid woman who was so empathetic she could take on a person’s injuries as her own and then heal them. I’m pretty sure that was where I learned what real empathy looked like.

On the value of relationships and empathy

For years PR gurus (including myself) have cited “building relationships” as the ultimate goal for public relations. Today that seems awfully shallow. In theory, and according to the way most people calculate “relationships” these days, I have 22,144 relationships via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube. Never mind my various assorted cousins, friends, family, and professional connections. Obviously not all relationships are created equal. One lesson we learn from social media is that simply accumulating more relationships is not a guaranteed driver of success.

On the overall spectrum of the value of our connections with stakeholders, I think we can all agree that likes and impressions are somewhere down at the bottom. I would argue that empathy is right up there with trust at the top of the scale.

The difference between a relationship that works and one that merely exists is empathy. Take, for example, my relationship with a distant relative of mine. We are of course connected by blood, and see each other frequently. However, she is married to a truly horrible human being, and I long ago gave up on investing in our relationship. Because, well, who needs more crazy in one’s life?

In contrast, I ran into another cousin last week that I seldom see because she lives thousands of miles away. I gave her a huge heartfelt hug. We quickly caught up on each other’s lives, and I was very sorry to see her run off. Despite the miles between us, we stay in touch on Facebook and will always share that strong but terrible bond of being cancer survivors.

The difference between these two relationships is empathy. In the latter example, we have both been there and done that cancer thing, and anyone who hasn’t been there doesn’t quite get it. So we will always have a stronger connection than I have with many of my other relatives.

Empathy gets things done

My argument is that empathy is a far stronger motivator of action than is simply a “relationship.” In fact, in your typical path to purchase it might even be as strong a factor as trust.

That’s why in this issue of The Measurement Advisor we talk about corporate empathy,

(By the way, there are literally dozens of different tests of empathy, unfortunately most of them are completely irrelevant to business reality. A surprising number seem to be designed to assess whether a young child is destined to become a serial killer.)

And if you need some relationship background, we’ve prepared

Oh! And speaking of getting things done, our MeasHERment Interview this month features

Live long and prosper,

About Author

Katie Paine

I've been called The Queen Of Measurement, but I prefer Seshat, the Goddess.