Life Lessons: The Power of Empathy

by John Zajaros on April 20, 2010

Family, Tutoring Kids, and Consulting Businesses: Empathy and Life

This has been a week for life lessons, particularly lessons in empathy. Over the past week I have been reminded of the power of putting myself in another’s shoes, walking a mile in them, over and again; and, I am better for the experience.

Last week was a full one, as most weeks are now that I am rebuilding my life. Fighting illness for over a decade, an illness I once believed would take my life, I have little time for idleness and spend every waking hour teaching, coaching, mentoring, and consulting. In my spare time, I spend all my time with my family.

I love the time I am able to share with my granddaughters Kailyn and Brynn…the lights of my life! To think I almost lost that? I am so grateful just to be here!

Back to Empathy

In the last week I have been reminded over and over again that in order to be successful in life one must understand and practice empathy.

I have watched my kids struggle, learning the life lessons I can’t teach them, the ones they must learn for themselves. I have been challenged in ways only a parent and grandparent who loves his family more than life itself can be, having to step back and let life take its course…regardless of the pain it must cause.

I know what my kids must be feeling; and yet, I cannot and must not interfere if they are to grow into strong and self reliant adults. Empathy is a double-edged sword and at times it cuts deep.


On Friday night I sat with a mother and father, parents obviously in pain, two people trying to understand and deal with their son’s ADHD. To their credit, while divorced they sat at the kitchen table next to each other to discuss their son’s needs.

In order to come to grips with what their son is experiencing they put their personal differences aside, they acted in a loving and selfless manner in order to help their child. It was obvious these wonderful people felt sympathy, compassion, concern, and, above all, unconditional love.

I felt empathy!

As I sat there, discussing the issues their son was, is, and will be facing over the next few years, I watched as the young boy’s mother held back the tears. I was moved, holding back my own tears, knowing what she was experiencing first hand. You see, I was that parent 28 years ago, sitting with an expert, seeking answers for my child. The empathy I saw in that young counselor’s eyes almost three decades ago is undoubtedly the same sort empathy, and sympathy, that little boy’s mother and father saw in my eyes, heard in my voice, as I tried to consult, console, and encourage.


As a marketing consultant specializing in inbound marketing and working with small and medium sized businesses, I have had occasion to consult with quite a few businessmen and women over the past few weeks and months. Sadly, I see concern, worry, dismay, and even fatigue in their eyes and on their faces. As we speak, I hear the concern and the weariness in their voices as they speak of the current economy and their concerns for their businesses, their employees, their families, and their futures.

I know what they are feeling on so many different levels, I feel their pain and I know the concern they feel for those they feel responsible for.


When I take on a client I interview them, more-so than they-me. I am attempting to get to know them, understand them, empathize with them.

When I consult with parents and business owners alike, I do all I can to understand what concerns and motivates them. You see, if I can empathize with them and with their situation, if I can understand and even relate to what they are experiencing on a personal level, I can serve them. If we are a good match, and I understand who they are and why they are seeking my help, I can go the extra mile when necessary. When required, I can take on some of their pain and help them through the most difficult patches.

If I can’t empathize with them, if I can’t relate to them and/or their concerns, I can’t serve them; and, they are better off with someone else.


Empathy allows us to identify with friends, family, business associates, and even complete strangers. Empathy allows us to connect with one another in a way that makes the bond a little tighter, a little more special, and a lot easier to maintain during the tests every relationship experiences, personal or business.

I have been asked if my life would be easier, less stressful, if I didn’t “feel” so much!

My answer is always the same:

We all yearn for connection, we seek meaningful relationships, we are all social beings!

Social media has certainly validated this. I have been saying this for years…we need each other to be completely human.

Empathy is a crucial ingredient, without empathy we fail to connect, we are something less than what we can be, must be!

Empathy, along with passion, compassion, and love make us better, allow us to serve our fellow man in a manner that would be impossible without it.


Contact me any time!

440-821-7018 (cell) (personal email)

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