People sometimes equate learning about and using empathy with nice or compassionate behavior. According to CEO and founder of Sub Rosa, Michael Ventura, however, empathy is a skill. Properly leveraged, people can not only use empathy to nurture positive behaviors in themselves and others, but also to develop more creative and effective solutions to problems and to facilitate collaboration. By taking both an internal and external approach to what Ventura dubs “applied empathy,” business leaders can create more inclusive organizations, comprised of more productive, creative and synergistic teams.
There are three main kinds of empathy, but only one is helpful for business.
People often believe empathy means behaving in a nice or compassionate manner. In fact, these behaviors emerge as a result of learning and applying the skill of empathetic understanding.
There are three main kinds of empathy: affective, somatic and cognitive. Affective empathy means treating another person how you would like them to treat you if you were in their position. This form of empathy allows your own biases to guide your behavior, however, and thus, is not the best approach in business. Somatic empathy involves physically feeling what another feels. Again, this approach tends not to translate well to business. Cognitive empathy focuses on trying to set your own feelings and ideas aside, and see a situation from another’s point of view. This approach, when applied thoughtfully and morally, can yield great results in business – leading to inclusive organizations, comprised of more productive, creative and synergistic teams.
Empathy is not, in and of itself, moral.
Michael Ventura is the CEO and founder of Sub Rosa, a leading strategy and design firm. He is also a visiting lecturer and co-owns and operates a globally recognized design store in New York’s West Village.