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3 Ways For Businesses to Cultivate Empathy and Emotional Intelligence

Mory Fontanez August 5, 2019

Our consciousness has been developing and growing since the day humans began to evolve. Something is happening now, however, that seems to have shifted this internal growth into high gear. Books, podcasts, and apps about meaningful connection have enlightened us about the flow of energy and about our own powers to manifest our reality. This type of learning is flourishing because we are more ready than ever to hear these messages, to begin to look at our interconnectivity and our abilities to shift energy in powerful ways. But why now? There’s no question we’re living through historic times. Like tectonic plates shifting — events are converging to create a new reality.

We’re seeing shifts like: previously muted voices of women and minorities bursting onto the scene; the government struggling to show up for its people; children sharing more time with screens than each other; and consumers realizing their power and demanding purpose from brands — to name a few. All these cultural and societal changes are calling for us to rise to something greater and, in turn, have enabled this shift in our minds — ushering in an era of connectedness. This is a new chapter for humanity where we begin to see ourselves in each other and reinforce our connection, instead of favoring differences and separation, in order to flourish. What better silver lining is there?

As we grow personally and as a global community, don’t longstanding structures of power also have to evolve? Particularly, the interesting question lies in what this evolution in consciousness means for business. How do companies not only ride this wave, but thrive and evolve themselves? The answer is simple and lies in the cultivation of emotional intelligence on a business level. This trait, as it takes hold, will distinguish the dominant leaders from the rest as we move into this new era.

We know what emotional intelligence (or EQ, as it’s sometimes called) looks like in individuals. It is defined in the dictionary as: The capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.

As a society, we’ve embraced the need for emotional intelligence, and even understand its importance as leaders. It’s trendy to talk about being emotionally aware, being authentic and connected. This is a good thing — because it’s raising our awareness as a whole and beginning to take hold.

But what happens when we apply a very human characteristic like emotional intelligence to a nonhuman entity like a business? This is where we are getting tripped up at the moment. For a business to take on the characteristics of empathy and to have a high EQ, the collective that makes up the business must all be elevated to that level. This means the leaders and employees, the day-to-day business decisions, marketing and communications, HR, R&D, and more, all come from one root origin: empathy. If you think about it today, how many companies can you list that seem to be coming from this place?

If we go back to the concept of an era of connectedness, it’s easy, then, to see that in such a time, where connections are key to our survival, business will have to facilitate these connections. Without the ability to listen, understand people’s needs, and develop the kind of structure that can quickly and nimbly shift to fit those needs, business in the era of connectedness will struggle to survive.

It’s not really a new theory; businesses have always had to evolve to stay ahead of market challenges and disruptions. During the 20th century, businesses had to navigate the industrial revolution, progressives and labor union demands, and the shift to digital and e-commerce. Each shift initially swept a whole set of businesses away, making way for the ones that could ride the wave.

History tends to repeat itself; it acts as a sort of warning system for its present audience. Which means if we’re smart, we will apply the lessons from past waves of change to what is about to come our way. So, how can we actively bring EQ to life in our workplace?

Here are three main components for bringing EQ to our work:

1. Self-awareness

We must begin by having a strong sense of how we work with others, how we approach challenges and successes, and what areas we still need to work on to operate from our highest, most compassionate and productive selves. Self-awareness means you don’t look away from the ugly things. Instead, you observe them and think about how you want to work to improve those qualities. But it also means that you celebrate the amazing things you do each day, the power you have shown to succeed, and the ways that you inspire those around you. 

2. Compassion

As we cultivate true self-awareness, we are then able to cultivate more empathy. We can put ourselves in the shoes of others and be present for their story, instead of inserting ourselves into their story. Once we do this, we can enter each interaction with empathy and openness especially when in conflict with others.

3. Action

It’s not enough to be aware or to be open; active listening, transparent communication (especially about our own weaknesses), and integrated collaboration are just a few ways you can live in true emotional intelligence. Action is about moving with these insights and intentions as your guide. Make decisions that consider others’ perspectives and remember to always communicate your intentions clearly.

Ideally, EQ would flow throughout the organizations we work with and for — from the CEO to the newest hire. But we can start by taking personal responsibility for showing up each day and practicing what we preach. By starting with ourselves we can hope to spark the same curiosity and compassion in those around us — creating a better environment for ourselves, our colleagues, and in the end, our customers.

Social Entrepreneurship / Stakeholder Capitalism
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