Empathy is all the rage in the corporate world today. As we race toward a future with more and more artificial intelligence, we’re still craving human connections, even in the often impersonal world of business.
This was abundantly clear at this year’s SXSW Interactive conference, which featured dozens of sessions on the roles of emotional intelligence in business.
In one session, “The Power of Hello,” attendees were invited to put away their phones and strike up actual conversations with three strangers. “Ask real questions,” encouraged moderator Thom Singer. “Get to know one another. Make a friend. Invite them to lunch and keep talking.”
“Leading with Love: The Future of Emotional Leadership” involved a lot of hugging talk—and of actual hugging. Seriously. I was hugged twice by fellow attendees.
Not for you? Don’t worry: the panelists agreed that simply being more human is enough. “Try to understand and empathize,” said Senior VP Terry City of Dose. “People really appreciate that you care.”Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, put it in your pocket with Spotify, or make it your own with Stitcher.
If you’re still not feeling it, you’re not off the hook. Contrary to popular belief, empathy is not a personality trait—it’s a skill that can be improved with practice. Even a group that is arguably the most selfish in the entire world—teenagers—can learn to be more empathetic. Although in that case, the corporate trainers will have to step aside. In episode two of the Relate podcast, we explore an empathy program that uses real babies to help teenagers find their common humanity and develop empathy for their fellow students.
Not only is empathy a seemingly endless source of material for conference speakers and HBR authors (not to mention us here at Relate), stories about empathy are just really great stories. That’s why the entire second episode of the Relate podcast is focused on empathy. Give it a listen, and let us know what you think—either in the comments below or leave a review in iTunes or your favorite podcast app. If you really love it, we’ll send you a virtual hug. Because hunting you down for an actual hug wouldn’t be emotionally intelligent, it would just be plain creepy.
The Relate podcast: a show about how we connect, work together, and understand one another. Basically, we'll explore every type of relationship except romance—that’s on you.
Monica Norton directs the merry band of social media and content wizards for Relate and Zendesk. A former journalist and reformed advocate of the serial comma, Monica has wanted to be a writer ever since she penned her first (and last) novel in the 6th grade. Originally from Texas, she enjoys confounding everyone in the San Francisco Bay Area with her lack of an accent. Find her on Twitter:@monicalnorton.