How can small and mid-sized business (SMB) leaders to communicate with more empathy?
One of the benefits of being a small or mid-sized business is the personable nature of the workplace. However, sometimes that close-knit environment can be tricky to navigate, whether it’s internally with colleagues or public-facing with customers. A little bit of empathy can go a long way to unsnarl any potential knots.
Just take it from these 13 business leaders and entrepreneurs who had plenty of advice to give regarding effective, empathetic communication in the workplace.
- Listen more Often than You Speak
- Get a Grasp of Customer & Employee Emotional Needs
- Publicly Acknowledge Employees’ Concerns
- Assess Tense Situations Objectively
- Prioritize Consistent “Face Time” for Employee Communications
- Check in with Employees about Life Events, Interests, Etc.
- Practice Active Listening & Intentional Responses
- Tell the Right Story to the Right Audience
- Practice Daily Contemplation
- Be Open-Minded & Transparent
- Strive for Authentic & Genuine Interactions
- Allow Staff Access to One-on-One Meetings with Leadership
- Pause Before You Hit Send
Listen more Often than You Speak
In today’s fast-paced business world, it’s easy for leaders to get caught up in the need to always be talking and communicating. However, what many leaders don’t realize is that sometimes the most important thing they can do is to simply listen. By taking the time to truly listen to what their employees are saying, leaders can gain invaluable insights into the inner workings of their businesses.
Furthermore, listening with empathy allows leaders to show their employees that they care about them and are invested in their success. When workers feel valued and heard, they are more likely to be motivated and productive. Therefore, it’s clear that taking the time to listen can be one of the most important things a leader can do.
Jake Munday, Custom Neon
Get a Grasp of Customer & Employee Emotional Needs
SMB leaders can communicate with more empathy by understanding the emotional needs of their employees and customers, and by responding to those needs with care and compassion. They can also create an environment in which employees feel safe to express their emotions and to be open and honest with their leaders.
Matthew Ramirez, Paraphrase Tool
Publicly Acknowledge Employees’ Concerns
One excellent way a SMB leader can communicate with more empathy is by acknowledging staff concerns. Addressing fears publicly and encouraging discussion thereafter gets everyone in solidarity. All staff need to be able to express their emotions and leaders need to be able to support them. Only through this unity can everyone prosper.
Gigi Ji, KOKOLU
Assess Tense Situations Objectively
When you are feeling emotional arousal (such as anger), try to take a step back and assess the situation objectively. Ask yourself what your goals are in this scenario: Do you want to get revenge on your colleague, or is it simply wanting them to listen?
Once you have clarified your goals, it will be much easier for you to communicate effectively without getting emotionally tied into the conversation. Moreover, remember that everyone experiences emotions differently. What may feel like aggression or hostility towards one person might not even register as such at all towards another individual.
Johannes Larsson, JohannesLarsson.com
Prioritize Consistent “Face Time” for Employee Communications
An effective way to communicate empathetically with employees is to talk face to face with them or through video conferences. Ultimately, we can’t get the same human interaction from text messages, emails, or phone calls as we can face to face. When leaders take the time to meet their employees in person or through video calls, it humanizes them and fosters organic connections.
For young companies especially, leaders who prioritize their time to meet each employee and make an impression enjoy deeper relationships down the line. That goes for any significant conversations along the way as well. Managers and leaders should deliver big news in person to empathize with employees and communicate efficiently.
Shawn Munoz, Pure Relief
Check in with Employees about Life Events, Interests, Etc.
Empathetic business leaders check in on employees regularly and remember details such as birthdays, anniversaries, and other important events going on in their staffers’ lives. When employees are comfortable sharing details of their personal lives or openly celebrating special occasions and achievements at work, they build community with colleagues and managers.
Taking an active interest in employees, when it’s appropriate to do so, allows everyone to effectively network and build community while at work. Companies that successfully create work cultures that hold space for employees’ life experiences will profit more and nurture employees who want to stick around.
Jason Panzer, Hexclad
Practice Active Listening & Intentional Responses
Empathy has become an increasingly important element of creating a harmonious and employee-centric culture. To imbibe more empathy into the way you interact with your employees, it’s crucial to practice active listening followed by intentional responding. When you can listen without the need to defend or change your employee’s perspective, and respond with the intention of creating harmony, you can truly take a step towards a more empathetic communication style at the workplace.
Igal Rubinshtein, Home Essentials Direct
Tell the Right Story to the Right Audience
To elicit empathy in your audience, you must tell a story with enough details to remind them of an experience similar to the one you are talking about. You want to remind them what it feels like to be where you are and want to sit with you through the experience again. What you don’t want is to elicit sympathy. This happens when we use victimization language or come at the story feeling sorry for yourself and wanting others to feel sorry for you too.
Sympathy results in an uncomfortable feeling your audience wants to get rid of with either platitudes or ridicule. When you construct your story, ensure you’re casting yourself in the right role, your audience into the story, and there are just enough details to trigger a memory enabling them to picture themselves where you want them. The amount of details will prequalify your audience and ensure you are telling the right story to the right audience.
Shannon Peel, MarketAPeel
Practice Daily Contemplation
If there is one sure tip for SMB leaders to communicate with more empathy in an effective manner, it’s to put contemplation as one of the required tasks each day. What I mean by contemplation is to set aside, say, 15 minutes of your time to sit down and reflect upon your day-to-day happenings.
What good things did you do that are positive and appreciated?
What did you say that seemed to cause displeasure or negative reactions?
What mistakes did you make?
What can be improved on your part?
What things can be improved, and how can you go about making them a reality?
When you spend time contemplating and analyzing yourself, you will slowly but surely gain more insights as to how you can communicate and do things with more empathy. Whether it’s within your family, with coworkers or even with business partners, you’ll come to a realization on how you can better manage your speech, actions and responses, stay kind and become a generous person while weighing in on business aspects.
Bhante Thi-O, Poh Ern Si Penang
Be Open-Minded & Transparent
Small and mid-sized business leaders have a lot to undertake to stay afloat. Effective leaders can complement the flow of smooth business operations. Being open and transparent with the staff helps form a personal relationship that enables the organization to deliver on its aims effectively. Empathy and compassion allow the leaders to understand reluctant employees who, by actively listening to them, can get them out of their comfort zone and enhance their potential for the business’ gain.
yongming Song, Imgkits- Photo Editor
Strive for Authentic & Genuine Interactions
Being authentic in your communication is one of the best ways to show empathy. This means being genuine, transparent, and relatable in your interactions with others. It also means really listening to what others have to say and taking the time to understand their perspective. Only by truly understanding someone else’s experience can you hope to communicate with them in a way that is truly empathetic.
Luciano Colos, PitchGrade
Allow Staff Access to One-on-One Meetings with Leadership
Setting up one-on-one meetings is a simple and efficient way to gauge the morale of your team members. Even if you don’t want to organize these meetings yourself, you can make them available to your staff so that they can arrange them as they see fit. Without sitting down with each employee individually or in small groups, it can be difficult to get a sense of how work or life is affecting your staff. These meetings can be held formally at the office, or you can choose to hold them informally over coffee or lunch at the building cafeteria or a nearby café.
Billy Parker, Gift Delivery
Pause Before You Hit Send
Before sending that short or frustrated response to a challenging situation, I’ve found it helpful to pause for a moment and put myself in the other person’s position. Evaluating an issue from another’s perspective helps me understand pressures and influences that may be different from my own, which often leads to more empathetic and effective communication.
Brain Abernethy, Service Direct