My husband and I are trying to get pregnant. We began this journey about a year ago and had the blessing of experiencing 12 weeks of pregnancy. Our first ultrasound showed that our baby stopped developing at 6 weeks and that I had what they called a blighted ovum or a missed miscarriage.
Honestly, we're doing ok. It was hard at first and I don't think I'll ever fully recover from losing our baby, but it doesn't scare me to talk about it any more. I kept it a secret for so long that when I finally did share it, I felt relieved and more healed than ever before.
The point I bring this up is to not scare you, sadden you or shock you - although I realize this subject tends to sometimes accomplish all three - I bring this up to share with you my experience with a doctor a few months ago and what I learned about empathy through the experience.
New to Nashville I searched for a OB/GYN that seemed to have the traits I was looking for not to mention they accepted my insurance. I made an appointment because it had been almost 5 months since we started trying again and nothing was happening. I was afraid there might be something wrong down there since the surgery. I felt confused, uneducated and had a lot of questions that I wanted a professional to answer (not the internet).
There I was in her private office, she was sitting behind her desk, I in a chair on the other side, being told I was trying too hard, that nothing was wrong and to not expect that every time we try, to have success like we did the first time (we got pregnant the first time we started trying last year).
I felt like I was sitting at the principles desk being lectured, like I was a child who should know better. I truly believe I was a waste of her time and I was just another one of those clients that she could care less about.
Now, I realize there are a lot of woman like me and that it might be easy for her to categorize me. But that's not the point. My point is she lacked empathy.
Empathy is the capacity to recognize emotions that are being experienced by others.
Not for a split second did I feel she put herself in my shoes. She was cold and made me feel terrible about tracking my ovulation and that I must stop trying so hard.
I left that office feeling alone, upset and wishing I had never went in to see her. But the one thing I did learn from this experience was that empathy truly is very powerful and is she would've applied some to her practice I'd bet I'd feel a whole lot better about the entire thing.
So today I want to share with you 3 tips on how to bring empathy to your business so that we can improve our relationships and experiences in business.
1. Put yourself in their shoes: No really, try to feel what they're feeling. Maybe you're a invitation designer for a wedding and your Bride is acting a bit crazy. Truth is she might not be crazy at all, she might just simply be stressed. Maybe her in-laws are getting to her, maybe it's the dwindling budget, maybe it's the fact that she has a full-time job and almost no time for planning. Whatever it is, try to be empathetic. The last thing you want to do is have your client regretting they ever hired you.
2. Meet Face-to-Face: Nothing says I care more than a face-to-face conversation. Phone calls don't cut it and texts are out of the questions. Anytime I am hired for a project that lasts longer than a few weeks, I make it a requirement to meet over Skype or in person. This has helped me develop some amazing relationships with my clients. Whether your clients live on the other side of the country or in your city, make time to meet them, develop a relationship with them, listen to them and get to know them. Most times when people are hiring you, they're not just interested in your service or product, but they're interested in a relationship with you. So give them the time of day and schedule that coffee meeting or Skype chat. And don't be afraid to meet multiple times face-to-face. Anytime I feel like my client and I are not communicating properly, I schedule a Skype or in person meeting to go over what were trying to say. This eliminates any stress and gets our ideas clarified, not to mention it deepens our relationship and creative chemistry.
3. Define & educate your clients on how your process works: Grab a stack of post-it notes or a pad of paper and jot down all of the steps of your process. If you're using post-it notes, use one sheet per step. For example, your first step might be receiving the an email from them, second step would respond to the email with a breakdown or pricing and details, third step might be scheduling a Skype chat, and so on. Organize the steps into a timeline, outlining your project from start to finish, including any alternative paths too. Look for patterns that emerge and ways you might improve the steps. Create ways that might help your client feel more joyous and relaxed from beginning to end. Type it out, create a pdf of it, insert it in your contract, create a fun comic-like illustration that shows each step or send a welcome packet that clearly outlines what they can expect and when. Whatever it takes, clearly outline your process ands share it with them. They will feel grateful they hired you and excited for each step.
Do you have an experience you want to share that lacked empathy? Or perhaps you have a great idea on how to implement empathy into our business? Share your thoughts in the comments below and receive a response from me.