Connecting during a crisis

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04/29/2020

I venture to say that the “corona-crisis” is not the first “crisis” you’ve had to deal with as a business owner, employee, parent, son, daughter, brother, sister, grandparent, aunt, uncle … nor will it probably be the last. That’s not thinking negatively, either; that’s just based on the uncertainty of life and the human inability to predict the future. 

So, here’s the deal … we are all coping with the same coronavirus crisis right now and that is the one common denominator that we all have with each other, the “crisis connection,” if you will. But, it’s how you communicate with others during this time that will deem you a success or a failure, professionally and personally.

I recently sat in on a SIA MarketShare webinar with Janet Fenner, SIA Membership and Marketing Committee and member, SIA Board of Directors; Kevin Friedman, principal, Maize Marketing and Jody Ross, vice president of sales, AMAG and member, SIA Board of Directors, and their overall combined message really resonated with me as they emphasized the importance of being empathetic.

“We’re learning as we go,” Friedman said, “it’s really about empathy and being empathetic toward our customers and our employees and our sales staff, and showcasing this is one thing we’re all in together.” 

When I was a teacher, I learned that a student doesn’t care what you’re trying to teach them or say to them, if the student doesn’t feel, know and understand that you generally, authentically care — nothing else you try to do with that student matters. A barrier has been placed, blocking all efforts. And, trust me, if you fake it, they know. The same holds true in all human-to-human relationships. 

“Instead of trying to go for the sale, go for checking in on them [customers]," Fenner said. “Make sure that they’re okay; they’re families are okay; and the more you speak with them, you learn about what their ‘after normalcy’ is going to look like, so you know how to support their efforts.” 

Ross added the importance of listening. “You have to listen to them [customers] and again, empathy,” she said. “You can’t be a bulldog moving forward and pushing them [customers] right now. Everyone is struggling. So, you have to listen.” 

So, what exactly is empathy? It’s simply the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. We’re all going through the same coronavirus situation; this common denominator gives us the ability to literally understand what others are going through. People are craving connection right now, and it’s the companies and businesses who take the time to authentically reach out and listen, hear and understand what others are saying that will come out of this pandemic ahead with strong partnerships and relationships in place.

This isn’t the time for simply “hi, how are you?” with the typical reply of “I’m good.” Nor is it “about pushing product down throats; it’s about checking in … let’s just talk in ‘normal,’” Friedman said.