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  • michela henke cilenti

Effective Strategies to Tackle Empathy Fatigue

I have one of the best jobs I know. I quietly support teams and leaders working in hospitality and service to use more of their strengths and skills to continue to be brilliant engaging with their guests. I really don't think that I give anyone actual permission to be brilliant or inherently teach them anything that they don't already know- But what I do do is develop, celebrate and refocus each service provider, server, front desk agent, leader, retail store assistant to keep doing what they do best - honoring the teams' art of engaging, persuading and ability to hold the attention of the guest to be empowered to make the best decisions and gain the value they seek from the cost of the transaction. For the team to continue to be outstanding I build programs that share, in appliable and practical ways, which of the social psychological processes or theories will support their great work and remove the obstacles to creating positive customer first actions.

COVID Emotional Debris Persists

Last month, I had the privilege to deliver six workshops for Grand Cayman Marriott and The Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman to over 100 very inspiring and passionate ladies and gentlemen from all over the world. After two emotional days it hard to leave the team I had just got to know. We built trust together. It was not just the beauty of the Grand Cayman islands and the extraordinary hospitality I received, but the clearing of the post - COVID emotional debris of the interpersonal obstacles that had been getting in the way of listening and truly hearing and being heard. The goal of the workshop is to individualize service and build trust quicker with each guest or client. That's the tick, the checkmark the ultimate indicator that you have been actually heard and that you have now permission to recommend something to increase the value of a purchase or an experience the guest has chosen.

"Trust is the antidote that overcomes fear – and fear is the greatest inhibitor of all to a relationship that welcomes and nurtures new ideas.” John Pepper, Disney Chairman

The 'Fuzzy' Feeling

Trust has a pseudo-physiological reaction, a 'fuzzy feeling' (in the tummy) that we feel when it has happened. It is the central essence to the people work we do. Like a natural high - it calls us, it draws us in, as we seek to connect deeper, creating belonging and harmony. The clearer and more honest we are to ourselves about our this interconnection purpose, the easier and more effective we are at doing it. Its just clearly the way for your greatest, most impactful work - trust building.

In the process of creating a connection, some people - when using the DISC profile, namely our kind and thoughtful 'S' types or 'Steadys, can be more susceptible to collecting and gathering a lot of sentiment or feeling. They are intuitively more compassionate than the other profiles. Read my blog on DISC for more details on the profiles. We see this emotional spill over, that a limit has been hit, it can be seen with a change in demeanor or body language, we can see also physical symptoms of stress and often self care choices are minimized when we are over loaded. When we get close to other humans emotions are automatically transferred and collected. This in addition to our own sentiments can be overwhelming, when not strategic or consciously managed.

Simple Strategy

Not that we can halt the transfer of emotion totally, but we definitely don't want to stop genuinely caring and feeling about others. Within our influence is the ability to be conscious of the limit of to staying within the empathy and compassion space. Try this strategy instead. Firstly, get close to your client or guest and use your empathy as a vehicle to build trust and feel the sentiments and emotions felt. Second, actively and consciously move from empathy to get to perspective which is a much more practical and impactful place to operate from. To authentically arrive in perspective takes practice and in between all the multi tasking expected in our roles, it isn't always mentally available. But feeling is quicker and more spontaneous happening mostly automatically. Traveling through it to reach the clearer perspective space saves your emotional capacity and gives clarity on what the guest truly needs or might want in addition to see and feel the value from the experience they have purchased.

Authentic recommending is much more productive and efficient when you see it from the guest's position and then you can intuitively, in emotion, find the best way to make it make sense and build the value experience guest and we as 'people' people seek. Win/Win. Have a peek here to learn about successes and current clients.

Need to clear the debris and barriers in the way of connecting with your clients and guests click here for some time to talk and see what makes sense for you, your team and your business.


Olszanowski, M., Wróbel, M., & Hess, U. (2019). Mimicking and sharing emotions: A re-examination of the link between facial mimicry and emotional contagion. Cognition and Emotion.

Kim, D. J., Ferrin, D. L., & Rao, H. R. (2008). A trust-based consumer decision-making model in electronic commerce: The role of trust, perceived risk, and their antecedents. Decision support systems, 44(2), 544-564.


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