Influence starts with empathy

A key takeout from our recent client event was that there is a shared ambition for Insights teams to become more influential within their organisations – to have a seat at the table and be strategic partners and leaders to their stakeholders. But how to get there? Influence is key, so engaging and understanding your stakeholders is a crucial element of building these internal networks. In this week’s blog, Emma Davies shares how Empathy Maps can achieve this along with a handy how-to guide and free download of the framework we use in-house. 

A couple of weeks ago, we ran a fantastic event with client-side insights professionals, discussing the future of the insights function. A topic that came up again and again was the subject of building what we think of as Trusted Advisor relationships with stakeholders, to help elevate the impact of insights within business decision-making.  

There are many approaches to enhance your Trusted Advisor credentials; empathy is a key one. It means the ability to see the world from others’ point of view. It is the starting point for clear communication, and critical for building the trust that underpins your ability to influence stakeholders’ decisions.  

Empathy is a peculiar character strength – some people seem to naturally have it in bucket loads, others really struggle with it. But we can all be more consistent in how we apply it – especially in our (supposedly) non-emotional professional lives. 

There’s a tool we’ve been using for many years which is great for flexing your empathy muscle: the Empathy Map. Empathy Maps were originally created to help build understanding and empathy for consumers or end users of a product/service, but we like to use them to help understand our clients (and their end stakeholders) better.

You can download the template we use here.


There are three main benefits to Empathy Mapping: 

Perspective. We are not you, you are not your stakeholder, your stakeholder is not the customer. The Empathy Map provides a useful framework to understand another’s point of view 

Relationships. When people feel heard and understood it builds trust fast (especially if you can articulate something that is unsaid, or they haven’t even realised themselves)  

Outcomes. If we truly understand where the other person is coming from – what they need, why they need it, and how best to deliver it – then what you’re delivering will always be fit for purpose and add value. 


Click here to download our version of the Empathy Map and follow our quick ‘how to’ guide to using it: 

1 | Be clear on who you’re trying to empathise with (an individual) and why you want to empathise with them. It might be that they’re a new stakeholder, or you’ve run a tricky project with them in the past and you want this one to run smoother for example (blue parts on the map) 

2 | Evaluate their situation from all angles – what are they seeing and hearing (the passive stuff), what are they saying and doing (the active stuff), what are they not saying and doing – that you’d like them to (the missing stuff) and how does this all come together into how they think and feel about a specific situation? (purple parts on the map) 

3 | Combine this knowledge into an understanding of their pains (their frustrations, obstacles and coping mechanisms) and gains (what they want and need, their goals and view of success). Getting to this final part of the Empathy Map (the green parts on the map) helps unlock how to engage with them, and develop a deeper-level relationship 

There are so many ways to become stronger Trusted Advisors across the insights ecosystem, and the Empathy Map is just one great example of a quick and simple tool – watch this space for more!

Download Incite’s Empathy Map template here.  

And if you want to know more about the idea of the Trusted Advisor, Maister, Green and Galford’s book is the place to start.