Between my undergraduate junior and senior years of college, I decided to forego a regular internship and get some experience in the service industry by bartending and serving.
Those two jobs were two of the most important I’ve ever had, even though I could no longer tell you how to make a proper Sazerac.
Since that time, the way I interact with folks in the service industry has totally changed.
I wasn’t a jerk before by any means, but I would routinely tip 10% because I thought that was the standard.
But having been in the shoes of a server and bartender, I have a much better understanding of their reality. Low wages, rude customers, bad (or no) tips, and more. Even at a high-end bar or restaurant where the tips add up, that money is definitely earned.
By virtue of physically spending time in those shoes, I built empathy. And by having empathy for those individuals, my relationship to them changed and has become much more positive for both sides.
Doing the work is a surefire way to build that empathy. But there are other ways of building empathy, and they can be equally transformational in the way you interact with people and the world around you.
Here is an amazing video on the power of ‘outrospection.’ Not only does empathy put you in a position for building stronger relationships, but it is a truly effective tool for marketing and selling.
Empathy transcends transactions. Empathy opens a door to say, “I see you and I appreciate you” without the expectation of reciprocity. And yet it’s one of the most effective long-term strategies I’ve found.