Empathy in the Time of Coronavirus

I was at the grocery store over the weekend. It was one of those warehouse-sized stores so the few people in the building made it eerie. Though there weren’t many people, I noticed that everyone was saying a few words to each other and the staff. I was very aware that the conversations were darkly humorous about the virus and its impacts on our lives. I chose not to join in the jokes.

As a product professional, part of our skill set is to actively listen to HOW people say what they say. I didn’t hear humor. I heard fear. I heard annoyance. I heard uncertainty. My response to them – or lack of a response – was to make eye contact, to physically show my support (a head nod, a smile) and really hear them. They needed acknowledgement and I wanted to them to know “I’m here with you. I understand.”

We need to remember as product people when we actively listen, we tap into our empathy and emotional intelligence. Those are skills that enable us to respond and react in deeper ways than just hearing what what someone says. We can meet our clients’ unstated needs when we open ourselves to using those skills.