Empathy is essential. Sure, that’s obvious for your life and your relationships, but also, although not so obvious, for your business. Empathy is putting yourself in the other person’s shoes: feeling what they’re feeling, imagining what it’s like to be them. Isn’t that the key to marketing and product development? Isn’t that also the single most important factor in leadership? Dealing with people? And business strategy? I think so.
I posted Empathy as a key to business success here a bit more than a year ago. What’s new about it today is Gandhi’s Neurons: The Practice of Empathy by Bruna Martinuzzi on the American Express OPEN Forum. She links to this fascinating video by Nova Science (PBS), which examines something called mirror neurons, also dubbed Gandhi’s neurons. The mirror neurons fire as we feel for others, or with others. Narrator Robert Krulwich introduces this as new science:
We humans are really good at reading faces and bodies. ‘Cause if I can look at you and feel what you’re feeling, I can learn from you, connect to you, I can love you. Empathy is one of our finer traits, and when it happens it happens so easily, perhaps because—and this is brand new science, this is just out of the lab—we may have some special circuitry in our brains that helps us whenever we look at each other.
It’s because of mirror neurons that “you can adopt another person’s point of view,” according to Dr. V.S. Ramachandran of the University of California at San Diego. He notes that humans are intensely social. We invent dances, games, groups… we eat together, we work together, and we talk. Language and culture come from imitation. He even suggests that it was a sudden advance in mirror neurons that spurred a jump in evolution to make us human.
So, as I said earlier, marketing? Product development? Leadership? I hope the connection is obvious.
I don’t know how the science of it necessarily helps us with the actual practice; but I find it fascinating, and when I saw this, I wanted to share.