Oprah talks about her aha moments – here’s mine:

“You’re so sensitive.”

When I was growing up, I heard that a lot. It wasn’t a compliment. As a kid I was hurt by every mean spirited word on the playground. I knew I was supposed to “have a thick skin” and let mean girl bitchiness “roll right off my back,” but instead I absorbed other people’s emotions like a sponge. The way I understood it, being “sensitive” was weakness I wasn’t supposed to show.

Unsurprisingly, I decided “sensitive” was not something desirable. For years, I actively tried to suppress any sensitive tendencies. I worked in male-dominated fields – even getting an internship in professional boxing in college – and went on to get an MBA from the uber-competitive Wharton School.

In time, I realized I had misunderstood my sensitive side for all those years. “Sensitive” isn’t a flaw when it’s applied the right way. Being sensitive meant I could listen to people and truly empathize with what was happening in their worlds while also maintaining appropriate boundaries. Sensitivity – that thing I once saw as a character defect – became something I embraced in the role of mentor to my clients.

For heart-centered business owners, it can be challenging to balance sensitivity with the toughness that’s often needed to run a successful business.

There are constantly questions that need to be addressed:

  • Which products and services should I offer clients, and where should I draw the line?
  • How do I increase revenue without being pushy or salesy?
  • What’s the best way to manage employees without either micromanaging or allowing anarchy?

Sometimes, the heart wants to say yes to everyone.

You may hate being the bad guy who says no to customers who want to return merchandise outside your policy.

You might not want to confront employees who resist your initiatives.

You probably want everyone to love you and your business – it’s your baby.

I get it. At the same time, I’ll tell you with all the sensitivity in my bones – you have to get over it. It’s not possible to do that AND create the business of your dreams, with all the financial returns and freedom to enjoy life. If you plan to continue building your business so you can change lives, you have to address business questions with a balance of sensitivity and toughness as part of the path to your goals.

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