Exercising Empathy From All Angles

To understand the needs and motivations of consumers, empathy is an oft-used term in the market research industry. While it feels it gets tossed around frequently, it is important to look at empathy from different perspectives. The ability to relate to others is essential in learning how people think and behave which helps businesses more clearly understand their consumers and identify their needs. To cultivate this human-centered mindset, we believe in collaborative approaches to elevate the voice of the consumer while focusing on the research objectives on the table.

Theme of the Month

For November’s Theme of the Month meeting, W5er’s got together virtually to share stories about a resonant topic followed by key takeaways and action steps based on various learning resources. This month we dove into EMPATHY.

Here’s a few strategies we learned for building and integrating an empathetic mindset in our personal and professional lives:

Be Present

Colleen Stanley, president and Chief Sales Officer of SalesLeadership, Inc., highlights the importance of forming a true connection with others in this webcast.She offers the simple act of turning off your notifications to pay attention to what’s before you and illustrates the value of taking off your shoes to see the world from another perspective. By staying present and focused, “you’ll build influence and trust,” Stanley says.

To keep the conversation elevated as market researchers, we can:    

  • Practice active listening – Improve communication skills by practicing active listening to stay engaged in conversations

Broaden Your Tribes

In this episode of NPR’s Hidden Brain, You 2.0: Empathy Gym, psychologist Jamil Zaki describes empathy, not as a fixed trait, but rather a muscle we need to exercise. He explains how empathy allows us to look outwards but also encourages association with groups similar to us. If we recognize our narrow-mindedness we can broaden our tribe and embrace a shared human experience.

One way to increase empathy is to welcome experiences promoting immersion to understand others’ lives.  One approach W5 takes to embrace new points of view and push outside our “bubble” is:

  • Volunteering for a Cause – Become engaged in interesting interactions and get involved in experiences outside our comfort zone by volunteering for a meaningful cause

Acknowledge Others

In this TED talk series, An Ode to Unsung Heroes, speakers share stories honoring those devoted to taking care of our communities. From lunch ladies, to librarians, to trash collectors, these workers are the backbone for essential societal structures. Throughout the talk, speakers reveal the power of gratitude for these largely unnoticed roles and practical ways to cultivate empathy for others.

To acknowledge other human conditions in research, we can:

  • Understand Impact – Be mindful of the unique risk factors and impact COVID-19 has had on others while listening to understand their story

Dive Into Fiction

While plenty of self-help books offer advice on creating that empathetic edge, research suggests that reading literary fiction is associated with improvements on Theory of Mind tests, a common psychological measure for empathy and understanding. You can become transported into a character’s mind while going through a war, traveling as an immigrant, or living in poverty.

Here’s some of W5’s favorite fiction titles to improve empathy:

Early Insights

If you have ever seen children’s TV shows, you are familiar with the flashing colors and exaggerated sound effects. These perky programs are much more than entertainment for kids (and torture for parents). Themes of kindness and caring for others has always been present in kids’ shows, but recently there has been a steady increase in empathetic programming.

Inspired by kid-focused narratives depicting a world of friendship, positivity, and courage, we hope to:

  • Keep It Light – Associate empathy with feelings of warmth as well as a motivation to improve one’s condition rather than experiencing suffering

We believe great research starts with asking questions and creating connections to understand different viewpoints and life experiences. What does empathy look like for your team? Share your strategies with us in the comments below.

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