Lessons in Empathy

Sometimes even after a long chat with a friend, family or a loved one, you feel lost. You leave the conversation with a daunting fear of experiencing ‘something’ no one has ever did before and thus incapable of advising you. You don’t get to hear comforting words like ‘it’s going to be okay, I know how it feels’. In all of this, Empathy is to take the blame.

Finding the roots

Tracing back to the fact that humans are social animals and that every individual has a deep seated need to be in communion with the other. Empathy is the secret ingredient, pushing us to be active participants rather than just mere spectators of what’s happening around.Our lives work on the principle of mutual aid and collaboration rather than survival of the fittest.

We humans are hard wired to care. Our brain is embedded with a system of ‘mirror’ neurons that mimics the actions and emotions of others around us. As a result, we are hardwired to feel empathetic in our DNA.

But then why do people react to the same situation differently?

It’s because some are more empathetic than others. Like any other muscle in our body, empathy muscle grows and develops depending on the intensity of its exercise. With more experience comes more empathy.

Empathy drives meaningful conversations and such conversations unlocks the creative capacity for ideas.

This story blew me away

A young designer, Pattie Moor, stuffed herself in a belt, put on a grey-haired wig, wore blurred glasses, painted her eyelashes grey and hunched her shoulders. She took this change in avatar to get out of her comfort zone and to empathise with the challenges faced by the elderly people in her neighbourhood. That decision changed Pattie Moore’s career and life. In doing so, she revealed an important but oft-forgotten truism: people discover unseen opportunities when they have an empathetic connection with the world around them.Innovators need to be a part of consumers.

Designing without knowing how it feels is like judging the weather in a room without any windows. Its overwhelming how designers hook up with their products without truly understanding the needs of their potential customers.

Practice is the key

Below are simple creative ways listed by IDEO to enhance the empathy experiences:

Craft an Experience : If one is gaining empathy for toddlers, consider walking the playground on their knees–they’ll see a common space in a new way.

Experiment with Senses : One way to shift perspective is to accentuate a sense, or to remove one entirely. Consider using blindfolds, or ear plugs.