In the first of a three part series, Sarah Hinchliffe reviews Roman Krznaric’s book “Empathy”. Parts Two and Three will explore how the principles can by applied to selling and bidding respectively.
Following my last article looking at how Aristotle’s three persuasive appeals – Ethos, Pathos and Logos – can be used to create winning proposals, I decided to dive deeper into Pathos. This led me to Roman Krznaric’s fascinating book on the subject. The two key features of the book are the Six Habits of Highly Empathic People, and the plethora of examples of empathic people. In this article, I skim the surface of the six habits and pick my favourite characters or scenarios to illustrate each.
“The art of stepping imaginatively into the shoes of another person, understanding their feelings and perspectives, and using that to guide your actions.”
So, empathy is all about discovering, understanding and accepting different tastes and views. We learn that there are two types of empathy: affective empathy, a shared emotional response, and cognitive empathy, which is about perspective-taking. It is important to develop both. And there is a distinction between empathy, which can relate to positive or negative situations, and sympathy (or compassion), which typically only has a negative connotation relating to pity or mercy in a bad situation.
A whistle-stop tour of empathy through the ages confirms it isn’t a new fad. We find empathy-related words and sayings from different languages around the world stem from centuries ago.
We are all wired for empathy, but it’s been swamped for centuries by a growing focus on ‘self’. Over four centuries, eminent scholars such as Thomas Hobbes, Adam Smith, Charles Darwin and Sigmund Freud have reinforced the idea that humans are naturally selfish and aggressive – we must compete to survive.
In modern times, who hasn’t heard the phrases "Looking after number one“ and “WIIFM” (what’s in it for me?). Instant gratification, happiness through therapy, and craving to be slim, beautiful and fashionable are hallmarks of today’s society. All this is fuelled by marketing and social media. Yet many people are still dissatisfied and feel unfulfilled. Tuning back into our empathic brains could be just the answer.
Having set the scene, Krznaric introduces us to the Six Habits. Let’s step through them. And remember, this time around we are just getting familiar with the theory - next time we will apply it in our world. But just for fun, I’ll set a little challenge for each Habit, which you can ponder with personal or professional examples.
To read the full article please download the pdf file below. For part 2, please click here.