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Business Pathology

Being logical gets you to the starting line in business. Being ‘pathy-logical’ will ensure that you reach the finish line in first place.

Greek word ‘pathos’, meaning suffering, feeling…or emotions; and the term logical means to operate with ‘sound reasoning’.

While the phrase pathy-logical does not exist in a dictionary, it should from now on, because to be successful in business we have to be good at using logic while simultaneously creating positive emotional connections with customers… and, indeed, everyone we meet in business.

All that said, there are four kinds of ‘pathy’ that you could link to a logical approach to the market. The only one that works in this context is ‘empathy’.

Customers and patients don’t need sympathetic sales staff; they need people who can contribute effectively, based on knowledge gained and skills developed


Relationships, by definition, are founded on the ability ‘to relate’. When we empathise with people we are in a position to project ourselves as like-minded people, and to relate to others more effectively. However, while empathy is the best choice for enjoying mutually productive relationships in business, most people choose less effective ‘pathy’ concepts.


Apathy refers to people who don’t really care about others, aside perhaps from those close to them, and when this awful condition is found in team members it reflects a lack of respect or interest in the problems, aspirations, feelings, views, achievements and potential of customers and patients.

While this sad state of affairs might be due to an unfortunate family life, it could also be fuelled by working with indifferent managers, who starve their teams of valuable contact with customers in training sessions, etc.

Apathetic people in business tend to keep their appalling attitudes to themselves, and it should be said that they ‘go through the motions’ of cooperating with customers and colleagues, but careful observation of the uncaring nature of their work will show that they are incapable of serving and ‘up-serving’.

People who bring apathy to the workplace may not be overtly patronising or rude, they are usually passive types who literally go out of their way not to be of help.


This is the ‘Basil Fawlty’ disorder of ‘having it in’ for customers and colleagues, to the point of ignoring people, being difficult, feigning confusion, displaying mistrust, etc. Suffice to say that if one of this harmful breed manages to get a job in optometry, then good luck to them and bad luck to everyone they work with and meet!


This is perhaps the most common stance taken by most people in a serving role, and while they are often nice, hard working and seemingly keen to ‘get on’, the facts are that they ‘feel for people’ but not ‘with people’.

This is because they do not operate as ‘students of business’ to the point where they want to know what causes success or failure in the market and in the practice so that they can help others with their knowledge. Sure, they are capable of seeing problems and success stories, and showing concern or interest in both situations…but they are unable to act on such issues, simply because they have no experience and ability to ‘get involved with people’.

Customers and patients don’t need sympathetic sales staff; they need people who can contribute effectively, based on knowledge gained and skills developed. Successful people in business don’t get to be achievers by accident. They study and develop skills, under their own steam or by courtesy of leaders they report to.

Developing the Skill

This brings us back to empathy. One simple way to explain this quality is to suggest that if someone I know tells me they are having problems with a home improvement project, I can show sympathy but not empathy…because [thankfully] I am hopeless when it comes to DIY work.

Empathy, then, is based not only on knowing about problems and opportunities, but sensing these ‘conditions’ before customers do, based on their continuous studies.

Importantly though, people who have developed empathy for customers (or colleagues) must also develop two additional skills:

  • An ability to draw attention to problems and opportunities in ways that are interesting, welcome and potentially very valuable. This is called the art of presentation. This talent is always managed best by people who feel a strong connection to the problem that need solving, to the opportunities that need reaching… and to the people they want to help.
  • A willingness and ability to offer practical, proven help with the solving of problems and the achievement of opportunities…rather than to merely ‘point’ to key issues and then walk away and leave it to customers to do the right thing.

The development of the empathy factor in people is either created by management or by individuals…or, as should be the case, by both parties.

Either way, the quality is also dependent on consistent involvement with customers who suffer and customers who succeed. It is necessary to learn lessons from both of these types, with the aim of helping all customers to a) recognise and solve problems, and b) recognise and benefit from opportunities. All of this explains why technically inclined people often fail in ‘serving’: they easily relate to problems and working methods, but not always to people.

John Lees is a sales and marketing specialist, operating as a professional speaker, trainer, consultant, business coach.A regular contributor to mivision, John is also the author of 11 books on business development.