“If I were you. . .” Repost

Compassion and empathy are Christian virtues that Jesus taught us to cultivate. Jesus’ command “love our neighbor as ourselves” (Matthew 22:38) is a central to our Christian faith. We cannot love unless we empathize with our neighbor and seek to understand his or her situation. As St. Paul wrote, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).

Now empathy and compassion are not restricted to the church. Seth Godin is a respected author on marketing and business. He wrote in his blog yesterday about the need for empathy in customer service.

“If I were you…”

But of course, you’re not.

And this is the most important component of strategic marketing: we’re not our customer.

Empathy isn’t dictated to us by a focus group or a statistical analysis. Empathy is the powerful (and rare) ability to imagine what motivates someone else to act. . .

When a teacher can’t see why a student is stuck, or when an interface designer dismisses the 12% of the users who can’t find the ‘off’ switch… we’re seeing a failure of empathy, not a flaw in the user base.

When we call a prospect stupid for not choosing us, when we resort to blunt promotional tactics to get attention we could have earned with a more graceful approach–these are the symptoms that we’ve forgotten how to be empathetic.

You don’t have to wear panty hose to be a great brand manager at L’eggs, nor do you need to be unemployed to work on a task force on getting people back to work. What is required, though, is a persistent effort to understand how other people see the world, and to care about it.

Seth’s last point, “to care about it” is part of what it means to have spiritual emotions such as compassion and empathy. Our faith can impact our daily lives, even at work.

Lord Jesus, teach me to care about the people and thing for which you are passionate.

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