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If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head.
If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.

– Nelson Mandela
I’ve started this article with a Nelson Mandela quote, for, the quote is close to my heart. In as much as it is relevant to our day-to-day communication, it is pertinently imperative in businesses as well.

If I had my way, I would tweak it to say…

If you talk to a CUSTOMER in a language he understands,
that goes to his head.

If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.

And this is precisely what I’m going to talk today – Emotional Intelligence – and how it can become a catalyst to help you build bridges in engaging with your customers and enable you to grow your business even in pandemic like a crisis.

Renowned Professor Michael Marshall defines Emotional Quotient/Intelligence as “The measurement of an individual to understand others; How they think, feel and their personal concerns, in addition, to understand oneself and communicate such with others”.

Here are the 3-point strategy that helped me immensely and I’m sure it will help you too:

Heart over Head

A few months ago, I was at a CIO event in San Jose and someone asked me “Will you let your heart rule over your head to make a business decision”, I replied a Yes, with a capital Y. This, for the simple reason that I’m a strong advocate of counting on empathy; and empathy emanates from the heart.

And this quote by Oprah Winfrey sums up it all. “Leadership is about empathy. It is about having the ability to relate to and connect with people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives”.

So, sometimes in life, listen to your heart, it pays.

Interpersonal Relationships & Communications

How we build a relationship and communicate internally with employees and externally with customers is at the heart of a successful enterprise. Allow me to illustrate this with two use cases.

  1. In the midst of COVID-19, the CEO of Gravity Payments, Dan Price was caught in a dilemma – Cut 20% of his employees or go bankrupt. Instead of taking a unilateral decision, he engaged with his employees, seeking their advice. And the employees so overwhelmed by their CEO’s initiate, voluntarily came forward to take pay-cuts to help the company avoid going bankrupt. THIS IS EMPATHY WITH EMPLOYEES and a LESSON IN EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE.
  2. Source:

  3. Now, this is our own story. Out of many projects, our team made few mistakes in the course of a few projects. Instead of beating around the bush, our team along with our leadership team took the responsibility and agreed on our mistake(s) to be aligned with our company values. We made a course correction with complete honesty and transparency while protecting the interest of our customers. These situations helped us to build even stronger relationships with our customers.
  4. This is exemplary leadership in crisis. THIS IS EMPATHY WITH CUSTOMERS and a LESSON IN EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE.

    These two stories illustrate the nuances of empathy, they are ‘Listen to people, ‘Be open and honest’, and Work together. If you follow these principles, you can achieve anything.

Trust & Humanity in Business

There is a great story I was reading on Harvard Business Review (HBR). It was about Uber, how they messed up their business and how it sought to heel from a series of deep, self-inflicted wounds. But their CEO in 2017, Travis Kalanick showed intent to come clean and make amends. The rest, as they say, is history.

The article in HBR on Uber concludes with the Core Drivers of Trust – Authenticity, Logic, and Empathy. It further goes to add “People tend to trust you when they believe they are interacting with the real you (authenticity), when they have faith in your judgment and competence (logic), and when they feel that you care about them (empathy). When trust is lost, it can almost always be traced back to a breakdown in one of these three drivers.


Key Takeaways:

  • Business is not always about wealth, money, profits.
  • Business is also about honesty, trust, and credibility.
  • Walk that extra mile to make your company a trustworthy company. Brands are built on TRUST.
  • Engage with your employees and customers in a meaningful conversation and share the finer feelings of life. It helps,
  • Do not talk to your customer in the language he understands, Talk to your customer in his language. You will see the difference when you do that.
  • And sometimes do listen to your heart, it PAYS

Stay safe and save lives.

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