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6 Ways to Become a More Empathetic Entrepreneur Have you read 'To Kill a Mockingbird'? You should, for its central message.

By Danny Wong Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Empathy establishes intimate customer-brand relationships. It understands your users' situations, engaging them in a manner that approaches customer issues with a heartfelt and optimistic angle. But, contrary to popular belief, empathy is not sympathy.

Related: With an Empathy Button, Facebook Will Be Even More Valuable to Advertisers

Many people confuse the two. Sympathy relates to pity and compassion, which is more of a reaction to someone's distress. The difference between sympathy and empathy is that of personal engagement. People who have a drive to build the awareness of an issue are often directly affected by it. The most effective entrepreneurs are individuals who connect with consumers and take the time to appreciate and understand their biggest paint points. To develop empathy for your customers, here are six important things to do.

1. Talk to people.

Talk to people, not just your customers, but those you meet who may be interested in your product and brand. Uncover their reservations as a buyer; learn what may motivate them to purchase. Challenge yourself to have at least one conversation with a new person every week. Go beyond small talk and discover who these people are and which factors affect their purchasing decisions.

2. Listen.

Be willing to actively listen to your customers and employees. Make yourself vulnerable, which is not an easy thing to do as a leader. Take the time to understand your customers as people and empathize with their situation. Avoid viewing clients as just a source of revenue. Treat them with dignity and respect, and prepare to develop solutions that will address their biggest problems and deliver happiness.

3. Develop your communication skills.

Practice your verbal and nonverbal communication skills. Body language, tone and voice are critical things to master. Spend time interacting with people you believe empathize well with others. Observe their behaviors and mirror them. Then, apply what you learned, to communicate better with customers, investors and team members.

4. Share experiences.

Walk in someone else's shoes. That sounds clichéd, but it is true. If you want to understand someone, you need to know what his or her life is like. If you haven't read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, make a point to do so. One of the main themes is the belief that you never really know someone until you understand his or her point of view.

Related: 6 Ways Beloved Leaders Demonstrate Strength and Empathy

5. Make people your priority.

Empathetic entrepreneurs typically measure their organization's success by the number of happy customers and staff they support. And clients and employees are fiercely loyal to businesses that truly understand them. As a result, empathetic companies are among the most profitable in their industry. That is because spending money to replace and train personnel hurts your bottom line. Furthermore, it costs more to acquire new customers than to retain existing ones.

6. Cater to your customers.

Being empathetic to your customers enables you create the shopping experience they want and need. In a study called, "Men Buy, Women Shop," researchers observed the habits of both men and women. Not surprisingly, they found that the men studied were more systematic than women about shopping.

Women prefer the experience, focusing on personal connections, the researchers found. Men focus on factors such as whether the store has the item they need in stock and how long the checkout line is. By knowing what your typical customers want out of their shopping experience, you can tailor your website or store to meet their needs.

Empathy is a skill that will not only improve your customers' experience, but benefit your own relationships, no matter where you go. Use empathy to make radical changes to the way you do business. Your colleagues and customers will reciprocate.

Related: A Bit of Empathy Might Be the Best Marketing Strategy

Danny Wong

Co-founder of Blank Label. Marketing at Receiptful and Tenfold

Danny Wong is an entrepreneur, marketer and writer. He is the co-founder of Blank Label, an award-winning luxury menswear company, and leads marketing for Receiptful, a platform to supercharge all customer interactions for eCommerce stores, and Tenfold, a seamless click-to-dial solution for high-performance sales teams. 

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