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Empathy As Advocacy

Empathy plays a role in business success and in achieving positive outcomes for the people you serve and work with.

Empathy seems like an overused term lately. It conjures up visions of corporate mission statements that use the word empathy but in practice no one who works at the company or does business with it feels anything but empathy, compassion, or customer service.

Some corporations have even adopted slogans like “We Care” to address current issues like inflation, supply chain shortages, worker shortages, and pandemic burnout. This oversimplified approach ignores the real needs and frustrations of the people affected.

These approaches are not effective.

What Is Effective Empathy?

Simply put, empathy is thinking about the needs of others as if they were your own. The golden rule of treating others as you would like to be treated is another way to think about it.

People are incredibly gifted at sensing when someone or an organization is acting selfishly or disingenuously; likewise, they are pleasantly delighted to work with someone or an organization that takes a genuine interest in them and their well-being.

So, why not delight the people you serve and work with by treating them as you would like to be treated?

Why Empathy Matters in Advocacy and Business Success

What does current research tell us about empathy and business outcomes?

A recent article entitled “The Power of Empathy for Business Growth” by Ildeme Mahoney Koch (Forbes, March 2022) states: “Approximately 20% of new businesses fail within the first two years. A 2014 Nielson study found that those who succeed concentrate on ‘walking in the consumer’s shoes to uncover key demand-driven insights.’”

Clearly, empathy plays a role in business success and the outcomes for the people you serve and work with.

Identifying their pain points and working to alleviate them as if they were your own problems could spell success for you, your business, and the wider community.

In addition, in her article “Empathy as a Business Skill” (London School of Economics, February 2022), Allyson Zimmermann states: “Our data shows that empathy is a positive force for productivity and other positive work experiences during the pandemic. Those with empathetic managers report higher levels of creativity (61%) and engagement (76%) than those with less empathetic senior leaders (13% and 32% respectively).”

Clearly, genuine caring about the people you work with and serve matters.

So, what does empathy look like in the business of real estate?

Effective Empathy in Real Estate Advocacy

At the end of the day, no matter what role you play in the real estate industry, you are providing housing for people.

Housing is an essential need—and a real pain point for those struggling to find affordable housing.

We all have a role to play in serving that need.

If you know, for example, there are supply chain issues with a development or unit repair, explain this to those affected (e.g., the tenants or investor) in advance. Better yet, try to order a supply of common materials well in advance of needing them, if you can, and communicate that effort.

Similarly, if you know there is a shortage of skilled contractors, then treat the contractors you have well, so they will want to show up for you when you need them. Appreciation goes a long way.

Additionally, if prices have increased on key components like energy, labor, and materials, explain this in detail to those affected and the steps you are taking to minimize their effects before passing those costs to the affected parties. Even consider involving the people affected in your efforts to reduce costs (e.g., implementing energy conservation strategies or energy efficient systems). Basically, think about how you would like to be treated with each potential pain point and go about treating others that way and involving them in the process as much as possible.

Potential Business Effects of Empathy

If you treat others as you would like to be treated, the research shows you should have greater customer/tenant retention and referrals. You should also expect greater access to skilled contractors because you treat your existing contractors well and they refer you to others like them.

As a result, you should expect greater success in the marketplace as word spreads about the level of service you provide and the way you make people feel that do business with you.

Empathy is Effective Advocacy

You cannot effectively communicate empathy simply by putting the word “empathy” in your corporate mission statement while treating your employees, contractors, and customers dispassionately.

Similarly, hanging up posters that say “We Care” or putting similar messages on your website or business cards without treating others as you would like to be treated won’t result in increased success. People are particularly good at detecting insincerity and act accordingly when deciding where they spend their money, time, and effort.

By treating everyone as you would like to be treated and genuinely trying to solve others’ pain points as if they were your own, you will create the circumstances for the success you desire for yourself and the people you serve.

Others will want to help you achieve your goals and spread the good word about your efforts for the betterment of the wider community.

This is why empathy is effective advocacy.


Jeff Roth is the founder of Arbor Advising in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Arbor Advising is a real estate consultancy dedicated to growing and securing clients’ wealth. The company is passionate about helping clients invest, buy, and sell in Michigan. Jeff can be reached at jeff@arboradvising.com, or www.arboradvising.com. Subscribe to the weekly newsletter at www.arboradvising.com/subscribe.


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