Unlocking Hearts - The Power of Empathy blog

Unlocking Hearts – The Power of Empathy

Written By: Vivek Hattangadi


In the upcoming age of generative AI, machine learning and more, one of the most needed skills is Emotional Intelligence with particular focus on its third element, empathy. Why? The reason is simple. Everyone without exception longs for connection and bonding. People are hungry to be understood. We seldom understand how to achieve trusting, honest, and conscious relationships. We sales and marketing leaders need to display empathy, which is a rare skill and possibly, a lost art. 

The power of emotional intelligence and empathy is at the core of mastering relationships. Every aspect of your life is either enhanced or drained by relationships!

Empathy faithfully delivers the ability to connect with people you love and care about. Empathy will also help you handle difficult people gracefully. Empathy has the potential to unlock your hearts, heal wounds, and even mend relationships. When you empathize, you not only recognize and acknowledge the emotions someone else is experiencing, but you also experience those emotions yourself.

Destructive Emotions: And How We Can Overcome Them 

Recently, I revisited the writings of Daniel Goleman and Paul Ekman. While Goleman has authored the book “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ,” together they have written “Destructive Emotions: And How We Can Overcome Them.” This book is based on a week-long interview with the Dalai Lama at Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh, India. 

These two books have opened a new vista to build and nurture healthy human relationship which is so important for pharma sales leaders. What I liked the most are their propositions that there three kinds of empathy.

The first is Cognitive Empathy.

Cognitive empathy means your ability to read how the other person thinks.

You see their perspective; you use your understanding rather than feelings to connect with others. You are in pain when you can understand the reason for the pain of others. You understand the language they use to make sense of things. Cognitive empathy makes you better communicators, because it helps you convey information in a way that that makes the other person comfortable and understand you better. Unfortunately, politicians are masters of this. They are brilliant at taking undue advantage of others’ emotions

However, you as a pharma sales leader should use it positively for better people management. By strengthening your cognitive empathy, you can better connect with people. How? You will be able to minimise your biases when dealing with people. You will have a neutral mind. 

The next is Emotional Empathy.

It is the experience of deep connection with say the person who reports to you. You can sense how he feels. You know their feelings; you can literally touch their feelings. Emotional empathy can “unlock hearts.” Emotional empathy helps you build emotional connections with people in your team. 

Listening is a skill needed in developing emotional empathy. 

For example, you are the first-line manager, and a medical representative Ashok is telling you his struggles when he works in the field. Resist the urge to interrupt. Instead, focus on understanding the ‘how and the why’: how Ashok feels, and why he feels that way. Now reflect on what he says. Now that you have a better understanding of how Ashok feels, you will be able to find a way to relate. If Ashok says he bungled up a call with a key opinion leader, think of the time you had bungled up a call with an important doctor. Now you will be able to relate with him better. You share your experience with him. Not only will it give him solace but strengthen your personal bonding with him. 

The third is Compassionate Empathy.

Let us continue with Ashok. Begin by asking Ashok directly. “What can I do to help you, Ashok?”. If Ashok is unable or unwilling to share, ask yourself: “In the past, what helped me in this situation?” or “What would have helped me?”  It’s fine to share your experience or make suggestions but avoid conveying the impression that you have all the answers. Say “Can I share what I did in an identical situation?” Tell him what you did and end up saying “Ashok, this is only an option which helped me in the past, but certainly you can think of other and better ways. Nevertheless, whatever you desire to do, I am with you.” 

Compassionate empathy means you not only know how Ashok thinks and feels, but you really care about Ashok. 

Putting into Practice

You are the National Sales Manager, and the sales performance of Sharif Ahmed, your Regional Manager is not encouraging. When using cognitive empathy, you will first see the whole picture. Step into his shoes and walk for a mile. What is pulling down his performance? Mentally see Sharif Ahmed’s perspective. Now if you were Sharif Ahmed, how would you feel about the performance. Cognitive empathy will let you speak to Sharif Ahmed in terms he understands. Your communication now will “hit the bullseye.”

Emotional empathy will now help you ‘feel your own distress’ in response to Sharif Ahmed’s anguish at the low performance. You can now better gauge the emotional tone of what you do and say to adjust to how Sharif Ahmed is feeling.

Goleman says that these two kinds of empathy matter greatly for leadership and relations with teammates.

Compassionate empathy will help you not only understand Sharif Ahmed’s situation but also seek to improve it so he can succeed and have a better and successful professional and personal life. You show you have an interest in Sharif Ahmed’s success and well-being. Sharif Ahmed will be receptive to your feedback and will act for a superior performance. He will certainly go beyond the call of duty.

Of the three types of empathy we have discussed, Goleman and Ekman say that compassionate empathy is the most desirable. The reason is that you’re able to understand what the other person is going through, and step in to help.


By embracing these three types of empathy, you can create a more compassionate and empathetic world for everyone in your team. Empathy is the remarkable ability to understand and share the feelings of others. It is a fundamental aspect of human nature that allows you to connect with and relate to one another on a deeper level.

In our pharma world, which often lacks compassion and understanding, these three types of empathy serve as a powerful tool for positive change. It has the potential to heal wounds, mend relationships, and promote team spirit. Embracing empathy is a step towards creating professional entrepreneurship amongst your teammates. Do read both the books Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ “Destructive Emotions: And How We Can Overcome Them.”

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