Nina Hale Talks Empathy

On Friday, September 11th, our founder, Nina Hale, was the keynote speaker at Creative Mornings MSP. The event was hosted at the Weisman Art Museum on the University of Minnesota campus with over 150 attendees. She was asked to speak on the topic of empathy, which plays a large role in her personal and work life.

Nina discussed how, as a compulsive fixer, she needed to learn how to channel her genetic disposition to fix things. So in 2005, that need to learn translated into creating an agency that is focused on fixing her clients’ problems and structuring the agency’s values around the idea of empathy. At Nina Hale, Inc., we believe in putting the client first, confident that good things will follow.

If you missed it, read our recap of Nina’s thoughts and watch the video of the event.

How do you define empathy?

Empathy is taking on and internalizing the feelings of others, which differs from sympathy. Sympathy is feeling with another – having compassion.

Why is it important to be empathetic?

Empathy makes us better communicators.

Have you ever heard the phrase “they can read a room?” At our agency, we’re always looking for this trait as a key to great account people – they can understand their clients, and gauge how they are reacting to conversation, to pitches, and to regular updates. They can ensure that their client’s issues are heard, acknowledged, and dealt with immediately.

It’s always good to remember that people around you may be experiencing pressures that you’re not even aware of.

Since it’s founding, my company has grown quickly and we’ve been profitable along the way. I regularly remind staff that our growth may not always be in line what our clients are experiencing, and even if our results for them are huge, that their jobs may depend on more than just what we’re doing for them.

How can you be better at empathizing? 

  • Simply giving people time – being receptive and seeing if they want to talk or not, is a simple way to begin.
  • Asking the questions that need to be listened to.
  • Try to be a receptacle and a resource without being a drain. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg says that “real empathy is sometimes not insisting that it will be okay, but acknowledging that it is not.”
  • Ask “how are you today?” instead of simply “how are you?”. This could ease the obvious answer to the more general question, which might be an overwhelming or emotional one.
  • Reject groupthink! It not only keeps us away from indifference, but studies also show that a hyper-affiliation with one group can reduce empathy even if you rank high as an empathetic person. 
  • Be brave; someone next to you wants to help.

Want the full experience? Watch Creative Mornings’ video below. 

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