Empathy is an important emotional skill that can heavily influence one’s career or
business success. It is the ability to understand and identify with another person’s thoughts and
feelings. Empathy involves consciously putting yourself in the other person’s circumstances to
understand their point of view, why it is the way it is, and finally using this understanding to
determine your actions towards them. Unlike sympathy, empathy means feeling what the other
person is feeling whereas sympathy ends at understanding these feelings. Empathy, therefore,
gives more room for communication and fostering relationships. It helps us in making
wholesome decisions in our interactions with other people and guides us on how we treat them.
In more professional environments, empathy gives an upper hand in understanding and
predicting people’s behaviors which is crucial in leadership, customer relations, and human
Studies have unveiled different types of empathy that are both important and useful in
different situations. The three main types are cognitive empathy, emotional empathy, and
compassionate empathy. Cognitive empathy is defined as the ability to understand people’s
thoughts and perspectives (Goleman et al., 2017). This can be particularly helpful during
negotiations. It also develops effective communication as it identifies ways on how to interact
with someone based on how they think or feel. It is also dubbed ‘perspective-talking’ and leans
more towards intellect than deep emotions. Emotional empathy is when you feel the person’s
emotions. Goldman highlights that just like cognitive empathy, emotional empathy also stems
from the brain as it’s based on ‘mirror neurons. It gives the ability to form strong and intimate
bonds with people. The third type of empathy is compassionate empathy. It can be seen as a
culmination of the first two types where it goes beyond understanding and feeling, to the point of
taking action. It is when you take the extra step to elevate the person’s situation and help them or
solve their problem. Since it carries both intellect and emotions into action, it’s viewed as the
ideal type of empathy.
The three types of empathy are more suitable for different situations. For example,
emotional empathy can be deemed inappropriate in the work-place or professional settings.
However, compassion is a strong attribute to have when in leadership roles because it encourages
productivity (Friedman & Gerstein, 2017). The authors also state that compassion at the
workplace makes employees feel cared for and this increases their job satisfaction and overall
productivity. This feeling of inclusion and being part of a team encourages them to be more
involved and feel less stressed which ultimately contributes to achieving the organization’s
goals. An organization’s that employ compassion in managerial and leadership roles are also
more likely to have higher employee retention. When employees receive empathy from their
superiors, they are less likely to leave and more likely to be motivated and put in more effort in
achieving their set goals.
Empathy is also crucial in the career or business success because it allows for effective
communication between you and your customers. Understanding your customers’ needs and
being able to deliver on them and solve their problems is hinged on the ability to empathize with
them. Being able to engage with your customers and listening to their fears and concerns and
taking action to minimize them will build customer loyalty and retention. It is crucial to create a
connection with customers through the human experience with the organization, acting on their
feedback, and producing content that makes them feel like you care about them individually.
This is because many customers identify with brands based on how it makes them feel. Tapping
into this could be the difference between customers choosing your product or service over your
competitors (Miyashiro, 2011).
On a more personal level, empathy not only contributes to career success but an overall
improved quality of life. By practicing empathy, not only are you able to understand the needs of
people around you but also how your actions affect them. This allows us to make conscious
decisions on the words we speak and the actions we make. By doing so, it becomes easier to
understand what your job expectations are and can deliver on them more effectively. This
positively adds to performance and recognition within your work environment. Developing our
empathy skills also improves how we interact with your colleagues by fostering cooperation.
This creates a more enjoyable work environment which then contributes to an overall fulfillment
of our lives. By being able to identify with and understand people’s thoughts and feelings puts us
in a position where we can be better communicators and motivators. This means that we can not
only perform our roles better but also inspire our colleagues to do the same which molds us into
With all these benefits of developing our empathy skills, it’s important to know how to
identify, manage, and balance our emotions and logic. This is called Emotional Intelligence. A
large part of emotional intelligence also involves the ability to identify and manage other
people’s emotions and reactions to them. Empathy, therefore, becomes a core concept in
emotional intelligence. Many organizations today recognize that academic and analytical skills
are not enough to excel at a job and include emotional intelligence tests during their interviews to
gauge candidates’ ability to be empathetic. According to Humphrey (2013), empathy is a skill
that can and should be learned and is necessary for any kind of success in the workplace. She
states that “empathizing may not change your mind, but it can help you appreciate others and
connect in new ways.” This is especially true today because our environments are increasingly
cross-cultural and more diverse than they were before. There is an increasing need for not just
being culturally sensitive but also empathic and mindful in how we communicate and present our
In conclusion, empathy can be attributed as a fundamental skill for both personal and
professional success. It shapes our ability to better interact and communicate with people and
create meaningful relationships. Empathy also allows us to identify and settle internal conflicts
through emotional intelligence. The same enables us to make better decisions in the workplace
and cooperate with our colleagues to achieve our professional goals to the highest standards
possible. It is also crucial to develop all the different types of empathy so we can be adaptable to
different settings and ultimately make everyone around us feel appreciated and inspired to be the
best versions of themselves.
Friedman, H. H., & Gerstein, M. (2017). Leading With Compassion: The Key to Changing the
Organizational Culture and Achieving Success. Psychosociological Issues in Human
Resource Management, 5(1), 160. https://doi.org/10.22381/pihrm5120175
Goleman, D., McKee, A., & Waytz, A. (2017). Empathy (HBR Emotional Intelligence Series).
Harvard Business Review Press.
Humphrey, R. H. (2013). The Benefits of Emotional Intelligence and Empathy to
Entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship Research Journal, 3(3), 287–294.
Miyashiro, M. R. (2011). The empathy factor : your competitive advantage for personal, team,
and business success. PuddleDancer Press.