The Business Value of Empathy

What is an interactive business without empathy? What is a business team without an understanding of the employees’ sentiments? What is an organization serving people’s needs without an actual acknowledgement of their needs? What is a company without an understanding of how their service will actually benefit people and their well being? A business without empathetic traits is a hollow one. Why? Because empathy is a characteristic that most successful businesses inherently require. A business that demonstrates the capacity to see things from the point of view of the consumer, to put themselves in the consumer’s shoes, is a multidimensional business, a business that can get an accurate idea of consumer’s needs. Moreover, an “empathetic business” is already putting themselves in a place for success by just genuinely caring for the consumer in this way. Empathy has been continuously linked to positive business results. Specifically, such studies correlate empathy with increased sales, manager performance of product development teams, and strengthened performance in a diverse workplace (“What’s Empathy got To Do With It?”). The Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations pinpoints documented research on emotional intelligence and empathy, or lack thereof within businesses. For example at L’Oreal, sales representatives selected on the basis of certain emotional competencies significantly outsold salespeople selected using the company’s old selection procedure. On an annual basis, salespeople selected on the basis of emotional competence sold $91,370 more than other salespeople did, for a net revenue increase of $2,558,360 (Spencer & Spencer, 1993; Spencer, McClelland, & Kelner, 1997) (“Business Case for Emotional Intelligence”). After supervisors in a manufacturing plant received training in emotional competencies...

Young Working Mothers and Sleep Disturbances

Get under the covers at 11pm. Wake up at midnight because one of the kids is crying. They’ve finally settled around 12:45. Go back to bed. Wake up at 2am because of anxiety related to paying the bills the next day. Force yourself back to bed again. Wake up, this time for good, at 6am to two crying children and start anew. This is the restless sleep experience of your average young working mother. A young mother’s work day does not end in the workplace. She arrives home in the evening to her second job – parenting. Dinner needs to be made for the family. Cleaning and housekeeping needs to be completed. Children need to be tended to. When she finally gets to bed, it is either stress, insomnia, or the children waking up that leads her back to wakefulness. Many of us don’t have to think twice about our broken sleep patterns, or whether or not our sleep habits are affecting our children. Research has found that mothers who work more than 35 hours per work are more likely to experience insufficient sleep compared to mothers who work fewer hours. In addition, children are more likely to experience insufficient sleep when their mothers work between 20 and 40 hours. Also, mothers with unusual work schedules are prone to an increased likelihood of insufficient sleep (Kalil 891). Furthermore, long work hours for mothers likely means broken sleep for the mothers themselves and for their children. It was also discovered in a 2014 study that it is even more difficult for disadvantaged, lower income mothers, and mothers with no additional...

Teaching Empathy to Your Child

What makes one child more empathetic than another? How can you recognize if your child is demonstrating empathy or if he or she is lacking empathy? Why is it a good idea to teach children to be more empathetic? Author Lauren Christine Phillips describes empathy as “not a trait that all people exhibit, yet a valuable human characteristic that should be nurtured.” One child, whether aware of it or not, may be wired to be more sensitive and feel as if empathy comes naturally to him or her. Another child may benefit from nurturing his or her empathy through a range of opportunities that are presented to him or her. Because “caring” is a vital ingredient to empathy and an action-based behavior that children can practice, teachers often offer children opportunities that teach them precisely how to care for others. If individuals exercise “care” – behave warmly towards others and in ways that deliberately benefit others – they are positively engaging with another person. They are on their way to consciously or unconsciously imagining themselves in another’s shoes and acting accordingly – and in caring ways – to benefit that person (Phillips). Two ways a teacher or parent may model caring behavior in order to outline empathetic expression is through the use of “pretend-play” and doll-playing. If a teacher is engaging with a child in pretend-play in a pretend kitchen, the teacher can demonstrate the benefits of taking turns washing the dishes. He or she can show the child positive reinforcement such as smiling when the child gives up control to the teacher to wash the dishes, and punishment...

Empathic Portraits of Modern Moms #4: Single Parenting Homework Time

Empathic Portraits of Modern Moms #4: Single Parenting Homework Time There’s a woman I know who works in social services and is a single mom to two kids. One child is a teenager, and one child is in late elementary school. The woman’s children are old enough to watch themselves after school, so she fortunately doesn’t have to worry about day care these days. That said, Mom works regular daytime hours and doesn’t get home until dinner time on week nights. When she comes through the door, the kids are anxious to see her, and having raging appetites. She’s tired from a long day at work taking care of other people’s families. She rushes to make dinner, and decompress while her kids try to tell her a little about their day over the sounds of clanging pots and pans. By this time, it’s probably 6:30pm or 7:00pm. They eat, and then it’s homework time. For her younger child, each night is a treacherous battle against the stack of homework he is sent home with. One to two hours a night is fully dedicated to home work, and that is after the 6 or so hours he already spends at school every day. As soon as dinner is over, it’s essentially school time again, and there is no fun interactive time between mom and the kids. It’s all about home work. Her son squirms, and Mom has to get tough to get him to focus. It typically turns into an uncomfortable evening for everyone involved. When I was talking this situation over with my friend, she expressed how frustrated she...

Empathic Portraits of Modern Moms #3: Large Families / Death of a Partner

Empathic Portraits of Modern Moms #3: Large Families / Death of a Partner By Emily Heizer For ten years I worked as a photographer, capturing different milestones in people’s lives. Weddings, babies, senior portraits; you name it, I photographed it. A few years ago I received an email from a woman who wanted maternity portraits taken. Her initial email was a little vague, so I pressed gently to find out who else would be present for the shoot so I could prepare. Would there be siblings? A spouse? A boyfriend or girlfriend? A presented example poses for older brothers or sisters and a partner if she had one. Sara’s initial email was more than a little morose for an expectant mother and I very much felt like I was pulling teeth to get the information I needed to prepare for the shoot, but I wasn’t exactly sure what the situation was. The message I received back was very blunt. Sara’s husband had died suddenly and unexpectedly in his sleep when she was 20 weeks pregnant. She had three other children who would be present for the shoot. That was all. She wanted to preserve this pregnancy but she wasn’t exactly sure how to navigate the whole thing since her husband couldn’t be there. At first I had no idea what to say. What is it like to lose a spouse? I too had had to cope with life without a partner several years prior, but the circumstances were dissimilar. He hadn’t died. He just ceased to exist. If you have any sort of friend network at all, you probably...

Empathy in Romantic Relationships

Empathy in Romantic Relationships By Holly Rosen A romantic relationship is a fitting harbor for empathy. According to attachment theory, in a relationship, both partners regulate each other’s blood pressure, heart rates, breathing, and the levels of hormones in one another’s blood. When two people join together and become attached, they establish one physiological unit and are no longer separate entities in this regard (Levine and Heller 2010). Moreover, we are constantly in tune with our partner whether we like it or not. But how skilled are we at being available to our partners, emotionally and otherwise? How much do we put ourselves in our partners’ shoes, consciously or unconsciously? Empathy, or understanding the point of view of one’s partner, is an essential predictor of marital adjustment. Moreover, individuals are more likely to have stable, well-adjusted relationships if they have partners who are capable of expressing empathy (Long 1993), (Bagarozzi and Anderson 1989). Empathy can be cognitive or affective. When we express affective empathy, we are engaging in an emotional experience of another with an individual. When we express cognitive empathy, we are intellectually taking on the individual’s mental perspective, perhaps in turn drawing conclusions about their mental or emotional states (Cox et al. 2011). In the context of a romantic relationship, perhaps one partner had a strenuous day at work. Even if the other partner was distressed herself, she expresses affective empathy by sharing and acknowledging her husband’s current feelings: exhaustion, frustration with work hours, and a strong desire to relax for the rest of the night. In turn, she acts in ways that cater to his feelings....

Emotional Intelligence and Mothering

Emotional Intelligence and Mothering by Holly Rosen You get into a disagreement with a friend about how your children should be raised. Voices raise and the entire mood of the room changes. Your first instinct is to run. What right does your friend have to tell you how to raise your kids? There’s no reasoning with her; she’s too stubborn. But the more mindful part of you wants to stay right where you are and work through the issue with her.  You understand your friend feels that way largely because of her own experiences raising her children now. Moreover, she did not understand why you put the children through an expensive camp instead of putting the money into their savings because she would not have done this herself with her children. You realize that this conflict between you two is just a difference of values. You of course want your children to be financially secure in the future, but you also strongly value the fun they have as kids. Your friend values financial security enough to sacrifice some childhood fun. Your friend also also said she had a rough day at work today. Perhaps she is projecting her anger towards you. Additionally, you noticed that you automatically jumped on the defense when the topic of your children’s upbringing came up. Could you possibly have insecurities about raising your children that have little or nothing to do with your friend? You conclude that there is another angle to seeing this disagreement that allows you to see all of the variables; the core of the issue, and not simply give into...

Empathic Portraits of Modern Moms #2: Large Family Stay at Home Mom

By Emily Heizer Lydia is 32. She’s the mother of five children. At 20 she met her husband, 21 she was married, and pregnant the same year. Neither she nor her husband were through college yet when they got married, and being young and in love the responsibilities piled on quickly. When their first child was born Lydia’s dad joked some people could have purchased a car for what that baby cost without insurance.  She stopped breastfeeding her son on his first birthday and promptly conceived twins. All day long Lydia would be bed bound with her toddler watching TV with the shades drawn. They only had one car, and the pregnancy made her too exhausted to walk very far from the apartment. They couldn’t afford anything. The financial stress was overwhelming. Years passed, things got better, but eventually, more babies arrived. They have a big family. They love it, but it’s draining. That said, it’s not just financial stress when you’re staying home with young children, is it? As Lydia puts it, if it’s her husband’s job to provide the material things for the family- the roof over their heads, food on the table and clothes on their backs- it’s her job to take care of everything else, including running the house and doing the bulk of the childcare. But it drives her crazy. When we were in high school, Lydia told me she planned on getting married when she was 18 or 19 and she planned on having at least five children. That’s exactly what she did. But how did that translate into a day to day lifestyle?...

Empathic Portraits of Modern Moms #1: The Working Mom

By Emily Heizer How do you adequately take care of your kids if you don’t have a partner to help you? I’m sure you’re doing a great job. But how do you do it? Do you juggle? Are your kids in day care? Do you work full time? Is your family involved? How does that work? How do you prioritize family time as a working mom without a significant other to help share the load? She has brown hair, always pulled back into a loose ponytail, and glasses that don’t quite sit straight on her face. She stands with her hand on the checkout counter in front of me and gestures in the air with a little bit of frustration as she details her living situation. I don’t know her name, but I see her every week at the grocery store. She’s a single mom; she works long hours. She’s always a little tired and nearing the end of her shift when I see her. She shuffles her weight from one foot to the other and tries not to complain but it’s easy to see how much her feet ache from standing for so long. She’s anxious to go home. I’ve told her about this introspection into empathy and motherhood that I’m exploring right now, and her faces alternates between lighting up, talking about her son, and darting away and making those hand gestures. She’s on her own and it’s hard. I ask her, what should I write about? What do moms want to talk about? Apparently a lot of things, but the one that stands out is how...

Fertility Diagnosis Part 2

Emily Heizer On my 30th birthday I sat and cried that my future was so unknown. Would I ever have kids? Could I even have kids? Unproven fertility is a question that plagues us as women so much more heavily as we grow older. Waiting until we turn 40 to ask questions about our bodies is so much more scary than doing it at 30. At 30, the media tells us, we have options. At 40, those options have been greatly reduced. There are still options, but it’s more of a battle. But even at 30, I was terrified. Empowered with a decade’s experience of reading women’s magazines and terrified by the recounting of dozens of horror stories, I elected to undergo fertility testing just before my 32nd birthday. There were some suspicious factors and given a little family history my doctor was concerned. Frankly, so was I. After the blood tests were drawn however, my anxiety shot through the roof. I couldn’t sleep and I flew through packages of Cheetos and jars of almond butter like I was trying to audition for the Biggest Loser. I had to wait weeks before the blood tests could be drawn because they had to be taken at a particular point in my cycle. Then it was days of waiting for the actual results to be processed. The day finally came when the test results were expected. I woke up in a panic and tried to calm myself while spacing out staring at the smooth white ceiling over my bed.  I ponied up enough to call the office around noon and was...
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