The Importance of Empathy

ImageA friend happened to mention the eternal human habit of turning things personal and taking things to heart. Yours truly felt it rang true. One might be asked to express a generic view about the state of politics, education, culture, fashion trends; it becomes invariably colored with a personal opinion. While most people believe it is prejudice that clouds sound judgement and objectivity, I beg to differ. What of empathy? Isn’t this subtle and unconscious emotion responsible for the millions of passing comments we make every day? Unless one puts oneself in the shoes of another, a public opinion cannot be effectively formed.

Taking it to another level- as PR professionals our human ability to internalize and empathize is what is most required to aid a client. Unless we’re seeing the world through their eyes, as well as whatever-colored glasses they are wearing, can we truly call ourselves advisers and counselors? PR folks are often insulted when called spin doctors to their faces, when knowing the client in and out, and being a spokesperson who will let the world know their story is a designation to be rather proud of.

Public Relations is nothing if not empathy. In the rat race of marketing and devising formidable communication strategies the end products, namely mutual understanding and goodwill remain out of focus. One is asked to don the garbs of a spokesperson, mediator, crisis manager and a lot more. None of this can be genuine without a personal understanding of the the client and their publics. Objectivity is an enviable quality indeed but true understanding can only be built on a foundation of empathy.

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