Emotional intelligence is on the lips of the media these days. A recent article by the Harvard Business Review caught my eye because it listed the skills entrepreneurs excel at and the ones you don’t excel at like empathy.
Entrepreneurs Don’t Care
The article is kinda dry but the comments were very interesting to me. Commentators seemed to take offense that lack of empathy was even on the list. They cry, we put ourselves in our clients’ shoes. We understand them. Maybe but how well?
Here’s my take. The quality of empathy and understanding that goes into the product creation process for a market is vastly different than actually engaging with your client, one to one. Apples to oranges, really.
I’m wrestling with this idea, how to express it. Ok, I got it. Have you seen the Patrick Swayze movie, City of Joy?
Great film that sparked my interest in traveling to India some day. In the movie, the nurse explains why she’s remained in India and fought with the struggles of the people for so many years. She explains that somewhere along the line she realized she’s better at loving people in a global way instead of romantic love. She understands the masses but can’t deal with the emotions of one person.That’s what solopreneurs do- avoid your client’s feelings.
You love the market not the person.
What do I mean? I’m still noodling. But from reading the forums and talking with clients, I experience an ‘us vs them’ mentality amongst some small business owners. A skeptical air that says, I know you’re out to get me.
You know I’m giving the site (and myself) a makeover. I started looking for a makeup artist to work with for my pictures. A bit of yelp research and I discovered someone who looked great on paper. Let’s call her Lou.
Lou’s website was interesting. People really liked her work. Yelpers are notoriously picky about service. Her site had a holistic, friendly vibe and she worked with women of color, which is important. (The last time I had my makeup professionally done I looked like Casper- enuf said) Done deal, I thought. Until I called Lou to set the appointment. And called her. And texted. We kept missing each other, which was frustrating but not unexpected for two busy women running businesses, I thought.
As it about Turns out Lou was much more upset about effort than I was, which she made of point of telling me when we finally did connect. She told me I was lucky because she usually didn’t have such trouble reaching clients. I was not feeling the love.
Love your client*
Yeah, Lou was disappointed it took so long to connect. I’ve been there where it’s been so long you think it’s never gonna happen. Understanding that, I brought compassion to our conversation.
Did she stop to think about what I was feeling? That I was disappointed, too. Worried she might be brushing me off. Anxious that I’d have to spend more time searching. I have to guess no (I don’t know what she intended) but the impact on me was like, meh. That made me mad as a customer and business coach.
Why waste such a great opportunity to bond and gain my trust. We shared that minor struggle and could’ve grown closer because of it. But no. No empathy. Too bad because I would’ve bought out the house. (Some independent makeup artists make their money by selling their own line in addition to consultations and lessons.)
Long story short, I didn’t hire Lou. (Quel surpriz!) We talked. I did tell her exactly why and what impact I thought her careless behavior had on me. Bottom line: she was great at makeup but I didn’t get a sense Lou loved me even a little. Crazy because makeup is a trust and romance business.
Connect & Grow
See, this is what I’m trying to say. You gotta love the person, not just the market. The individual standing before you asking for your help. You gotta feel what it’s like for them and meet it with kindness and care, not like you’d like, but as your client would like. That’s where connection lives. That
Opening up to another person’s experience, fears and emotions makes you feel vulnerable. That’s scary and rich with opportunities to grow you. You realize it’s not just your business that’s supposed to grow, right?
Best advice: I’ve walked through life with my hands open and closed. Open works better. I’ve gotten slapped and burned but what I’ve held on to- the confidence, joy, humility, community- is well worth it.
Love it or leave it, lemme hear about it in the comments, will ya?
* Just to be clear y’all- this isn’t permission to give away your power or become helpless to client demands. You are still the boss. You still need to make your own interests as much of a priority as your clients. And, it works better when you open your heart.