The Empathy Resources Hub

Empathy FAQs

What is empathy?

Empathy is the emotional impact that we have on others. It’s the way someone makes you feel. As Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

What are the different types of empathy

There are three different types of empathy: cognitive, affective and behavioral. Cognitive empathy is when you imagine how someone is feeling from their unique perspective. Affective is when you feel concern and/or have similar emotions as the other person. And behavioural empathy is where you act and work towards a solution. This is what we do at The Empathy Business, and we call it ‘empathy-in-action.

What is empathy in business?

Empathy in business is understanding the emotional impact that a company has on its colleagues and customers. The organisational system and culture tends to be more powerful than an individual. Evidence shows that more empathic companies make more money as shown in our Harvard Business review Global Empathy Index.

Why is empathy important?

Empathy has been described by Catalyst in October 2021 as a “must have in today’s workplace.”  and more important than even post pandemic.  Higher empathy has been evidenced in multiple research studies to link to increased innovation and engagement, and a decrease in burnout. More empathic companies make more money. In our Global Empathy Index in the Harvard Business review, the top 10 most empathic companies globally were 50% more profitable than the bottom 10 in our ranking.

In the Catalyst survey, 76% of people surveyed with highly empathic senior leaders report often or always feeling engaged, compared to only 32% of those with less empathic senior leaders.

Cultivating and rewarding empathic leadership is an effective strategy to support people’s complex lives as well as boosting productivity.

More empathic companies make more money. In our Global Empathy Index in the Harvard Business review, the top 10 most empathic companies globally were 50% more profitable than the bottom 10 in our ranking.

Can you teach empathy?

Yes, empathy can be taught and is not simply a matter of wiring. Research shows about 50 percent of our empathic capacities are genetically inherited and the rest we can learn.

Empathy is like a muscle that gets atrophied if you don’t use it. You have to work though at making it bigger and train yourself. The best way to become more empathic is when you are in times of crisis and conflict as this is when you need empathy the most but you feel less like using it.

We teach Empathy Masterclasses where we teach skills such as emotional labelling, emotional courage and anchoring. All need to be practised and once learnt, can be highly effective at building rapport and creating connections.

What is the difference between empathy and sympathy

Sympathy is sometimes referred to as a ‘pity party,’ – it’s feeling sorry for someone and it rarely helps. Empathy is empowering others to change things for themselves. It’s what we at The Empathy Business call ‘empathy-in-action.’ The word ‘empathy’ originated in Germany in early 1900 and means “feeling in” whereas sympathy is more “feeling about” highlighting a distance between you and the subject.

Can empathy be measured?

Empathy can be measured. The Empathy Business has a framework called EMBRACE that measures empathy which is currently used by Europe’s largest bank to monitor progress.

The most empathic companies share 7 drivers: Empowerment, Meaning, Belonging, Reassurance, Authenticity, Collaboration and Ethics.

There are three ways we measure empathy for clients:

  1. Empathy polling survey: Our proprietary measurement tool measures empathy levels across individuals, teams and the whole company. 
  2. Hidden empathy metrics: These include the percentage of time junior vs senior people speak in meetings, the number of ‘bcc’ emails and the amount of time spent on company politics. 
  3. Observation of empathy: Our Empathy-in Residence identifies potential nudges in the way meetings are run and environmental factors. 

What is an ‘empathy nudge?’

70% of all cultural transformation programmes fail. The myth is that big problems need big budgets. We use behavioural science and develop ‘empathy nudges.’ These are small changes that in aggregate will impact empathy levels. Our clients love our nudges as they are low cost and high impact.

Empathy nudges we have implemented for other clients include language changes, leadership changes, modifying the structure of meetings, onboarding process, performance nudges and recognition of successes and failures.

What is an empathy audit?

Rather than focus on one person, usually the CEO, we run empathy audits on the whole culture- the leadership team, the operations and processes and communications. By focusing on the whole organisation, we deliver empathy at scale and institutionalise empathy into the very heart of a company to ensure it’s sustainable and part of everyday life.