We are very lucky to get the opportunity to work with other fantastic creative agencies from time to time. Collaboration with true specialists delivers amazing results and helps everyone learn and grow.

We are called The Sound but we don’t do audio branding. Aces High Creative does. Brilliantly. Tamara Deike, who runs that show shared her perspective on Empathy.

Image and title artwork by Austin-based illustrator/designer Lacey Arslan

Aces High Creative is an Austin-based agency with a focus on Events/Experiential, Audio Branding, and Creative Strategy for clients across fashion, retail, music, and entertainment.

Recently I’ve adopted a mentality of working with partners and clients that vibrate a little higher. I don’t know exactly when it began, but it’s created a tangible feeling: more overall happiness.

I think we’ve all experienced the way an interaction can either leave you energized, excited and appreciated, or, on the flip side, feeling completely undervalued, unheard or just plain “blah.”

To appreciate the difference in these types of interactions, I personally had to encounter my share of assholish behavior—workplace misogynists, narcissists, and bullies that lead teams with fear set erroneous goals, took credit and cast blame with regularity.

As I launched my own business it made me wonder…how long before our services, teams, and creative output are rated not only on value, skills, and delivery—but also, on the way we make a client feel? I believe that in order to be the change that we hope to see, we must develop these skills ourselves. So what does that mean and how can you apply this to business?

The term “empathy,” was coined about a century ago and over the decades it’s morphed from various versions of ‘feeling’ things to our most common definition today, “the action of understanding the feelings of another, objectively.” According to Brene Brown, empathy is “feeling with people.” 

And when empathy is working, it’s two-fold. Both parties are in a state of mutual understanding for exactly where the other person is at, right now, at this very moment and simultaneously—where they’ve been. And if we’re willing to open up and become more vulnerable ourselves, it leads to more trust. More trust leads to connection. And more connections can lead to groundbreaking creative and all-around, better teams.

This type of “humanized” goal-setting is really about being as authentic as you can be. And with authenticity carrying so much cache (duh, why be fake?) work environments that embolden staff to be themselves can create space for this type of connection to thrive.

In fact, a recent survey showed that 87% of CEOs believe there is a direct link between workplace empathy and overall business performance. And, the study concluded that 93% of employees are more likely to stay with an empathetic employer. (State of Workplace Empathy study – Businessolver).

If we can develop empathy for our colleagues, partners, and clients, then surely we can adopt that mentality for the perceived customers we are trying to reach by actually spending time in their shoes. Walk the aisle at the grocery store, attend a local sporting event, try on clothing in the fitting room, become the fan—and experience the experience. As Joe South put it, “Walk a Mile in My Shoes.” Customers feel first and think second, just like you and me, and this basic formula is a building block in empathetic connection.

The thing is, we aren’t data. We aren’t dollars. We’re humans having a collective experience. The task and the outcome cannot be the only focus. No, it has to start at a personal level. It’s the whole “I see you, I am you.” mentality. As George Bernard Shaw said, “Do not do unto others as you would have them do unto you—they might have different tastes.” Empathy is about actually figuring out what those tastes are. 

When Aces High Creative kicks off an exploration with a client, we focus on asking questions like, “what have you tried?” We progress, knowing that each decision our client makes…particularly those that we guide them to, is a message that they’re sending out, a true communication. And so we approach our strategy with the end result— ”How do you want your customer to feel?”

Content and experiences that include an empathetic approach to the customer journey are far more likely to resonate and make an impact. At the very least, you and your teams will walk away feeling better about what you’ve contributed. Empathy is a choice, and no matter what role you play, you have the opportunity to make a decision to participate. 

Tamara Deike, Aces High Creative

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