The Value of Empathy is on the Rise – Insight from Geoff Colvin, Humans are Underrated

Humans Are UnderratedI’ve written a number of posts prompted by Humans are Underrated, the excellent book by Geoff Colvin. Here’s another.

It’s about empathy.

He says a few things that are especially important about empathy:

#1 – empathy is declining. This is not good news. But, it appears that we are not as empathetic as we could be, and not as empathetic as we have been. From the book:

One more factor increases the power and important of empathy in today’s world: Empathy seems to be declining.

#2 – But, in spite of its decline, maybe because it is in decline, the value of empathy is on the rise. Whenever empathy is present, success seems to follow.

For example, waiters earn larger tips; debt collectors recover more money. From the book:

“Waiters who are better at showing empathy earn nearly 20 percent more in tips” and “debt collectors with empathy skills recovered twice as much debt.” 

And, doctors see better health outcomes in their patients. This is pretty impressive! Again, from the book:

Most important, direct evidence shows that patients have better outcomes when their doctors are more empathetic… Patients with highly empathetic doctors showed better control of their blood sugar and LDL cholesterol, and experienced fewer acute complications, than did patients with low-empathy doctors. …empathy is much more than politeness. It holds surprising power to influence our feelings and thoughts, our actions, and even our bodies. 
Does a doctor’s tone of voice really tell us whether he or she is discerning our thoughts and feelings? Maybe or maybe not, but hardly anyone would doubt that we feel it does. 

So, what do we mean by empathy?

  • It means discerning what some other person is thinking and feeling, and responding in some appropriate way.
  • It goes far beyond just feeling someone else’s pain. Spotting someone’s joy, anger, engagement, confusion, or any other mental state is just as important.

Here’s the challenge. Whatever business you are in, when you interact – with fellow team members, with customers, with anyone and everyone — learn to practice empathy.

And, by the way, empathy is something that can be learned. It starts by paying attention, and asking a very simple question: Am I paying attention to that other person instead of just paying attention to myself?


You can purchase my synopsis of Humans Are Underrated (and many other business books), at our companion site,  Each synopsis comes with a multi-page, comprehensive handout, and the audio recording of my synopsis presentation.


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