Goldilocks and the Three Empathies (a COVID-19 tale)


Tired of being confined to her cottage during the COVID-19 crisis, Goldilocks decided to take a walk through the Enchanted Forest and gather ingredients for dinner.  She came upon a market, considered by the king to be an essential service, where local farmers were still permitted to sell their produce.

She approached the first vendor at a socially-safe distance.  When asked how her day was going, she said how frustrated she was with this lockdown.  Vendor #1 then commented: “You shouldn’t feel that way, Goldilocks.  This will all be fine and over before you know it.  And, by the way, I’m running a special on strawberries today.”

Goldilocks walked away thinking to herself, “That empathy was too cold.  I “shouldn’t feel” the way I feel?  And how does he know that it will all be fine and over soon?  That felt icky, just like his strawberries probably were. And I’m allergic to strawberries anyway.”

As she visited vendor #2, who greeted her and asked about her day, Goldilocks again expressed her cottage-quarantine frustration.  In response, vendor #2 remarked: “Oh me too.  I’m so frustrated.  My business is down.  I don’t know how I’m going to pay my rent.  I haven’t been sleeping well because I’m so stressed out!  I can’t take this much longer…”

The vendor continued talking as Goldilocks wandered away.  This time, she thought: “That empathy was too hot.   He was not listening and did not care about me. He totally hijacked my story and talked about himself the whole time I was there.  I feel even more stressed out than I did before. Yuck.  What was he selling again?”

Getting even more frustrated and still with an empty basket, she moved on to vendor #3 who, again, said hello and inquired about her day.  This time, when Goldilocks shared her frustrations the vendor said, “Oh Goldilocks, I’m so sorry that you’re feeling frustrated.  Sounds like you’re having a difficult time.  How are you managing through it?”  As Goldilocks talked, the vendor listened with compassion and curiosity.  Then he helped her choose fruits and vegetables for her evening’s feast.  She gladly paid for them, filled her basket and skipped happily home.

On her way, Goldilocks thought to herself: “That empathy was just right.  It felt good to be heard and supported.  Vendor #3 was really nice and helpful.  I will definitely go back to him.  In fact, I will give him a killer Yelp review, and Face-time Cinderella and Rumpelstiltskin right now to refer them to that nice man, with his beautiful produce and helpful advice!”

The moral of the story: especially during this unusual time, remember to stay close to and connect with your clients, prospects and centers of influence; and, when you do, ask high-mileage questions, and listen with sincere interest and compassion.  They will appreciate you for it.

Do your salespeople most resemble Vendor 1, 2 or 3 in managing through this difficult time? I care and I’m here to support you.