The Power of Empathy

November 11, 2016 at 10:51 am Leave a comment

By Brian Kim

The typical traits that attract recruiters during a student’s job search process are the drive for success, competitiveness, and individualism. However, these characteristics sometimes tend to stray us away from an essential human value– the importance of caring for others. In this highly automated business world reliant upon numbers and results, we can easily forget that business is about human interaction. All of us live and experience our own, individualized world, but we forget that others also have their own world of experiences. Respecting this idea is an essential task for all of us. Therefore, what can we do to keep our humanity alive while staying competitive?

Communication is a two-way street– actively listening and understanding someone is just as important as sending a good message. Showing that you are truly interested in another’s message is astounding. It shows that you care, and you’ll strengthen the bond between you and others.

Failure to connect. As a young high school student trying to start a computer class for the Korean elderly, I had a fear that our age and cultural gap would prevent effective communication. Unfortunately, my intuition was proven right during our organization’s first few months of operation. Frustration constantly built up between the student volunteers and adults as we struggled to teach intricate subjects that were nothing but gibberish for those in their 70s and 80s. To understand the issue, I dedicated a few hours to discuss the problems with the adults.

It turned out most of the adults came to our classes for fun. I was surprised to hear that they just “wanted to feel young again” in a classroom environment and “liked the idea of having a community to join every weekend.” We were simply missing the point of these weekly classes; we only cared about what we wanted to teach and had little interest in what our students came for.

kimPost-realization. We quickly switched gears after the feedback—we scrapped the boring materials that no one cared about and started one-on-one style lessons. The volunteers walked around to make casual conversation with the adults while answering any specific computer questions catered to each person. Business boomed, local newspapers loved us, and volunteers and elders started flocking in. Our organization stayed strong for the last six years because we listened to and cared for our customers.

Lessons. When you become the leader or manager of an organization, you most likely achieved that position with a clear goal in mind. This tenacity can make opening up to new ideas much more difficult. Like I mentioned earlier, business isn’t about sending a message—it’s an interaction between people. Leaders, employees, and clients should communicate to understand each other’s thoughts and priorities. Once ideas click together, everyone will be on the same page and succeed more

As college students, many of us have spent much of our lives comparing, competing, and judging others. We aren’t at fault here; the world is increasingly cutthroat and thinking about the future is a scary thought. However, we can still learn to be both successful and mindful of others as these two traits work in conjunction with each other.

We always rely on each other and prosper as a community. We should, of course, distinguish personal and business lives, but that doesn’t mean that we should lose empathy for others depending on the occasion. If you truly put in your work for others, success can follow soon enough. Let’s learn to thrive by listening, caring, and loving ourselves and everyone else around us.


Entry filed under: Interpersonal.

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