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Empathy is Not a Buzzword

Empathy is not a buzzword; it’s a life pursuit. The wings of wisdom and compassion have been taught by Buddhism for 2500 years. This isn’t new.

What’s new is the movement to integrate compassionate practices into business. Particularly in the tech industry which is often so dehumanizing. Left unchecked, technology turns people into proxies. That’s why it’s so crucial that we integrate empathy and compassion into the design process.

The way to authentically introduce empathy to your organization is to live it and breathe it yourself. Compassion starts at home, inside you.

Empathy can be assessed and it can be developed. Through ongoing self-awareness practices (such as meditation, yoga, martial arts, journaling, coaching) we are able to gain greater awareness of others — by achieving greater presence. It is a process, a lifelong process, and it has an impact not just at work but in your whole life.

Remember, you are a whole human being, and all of you goes with you wherever you go. The same is true for everyone around you — your coworkers, your boss, that guy across the hall you just can’t stand.

Cultivating compassion for others reduces conflict and increases joy. It will transform your life. So when you see all this talk of empathy, try not to think, “Oh, that again?!” and instead wonder, “What am I missing?”

The answers lie within you. You just have to look.

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  • Jesper W.

    Yes, empathy is a life pursuit – or at least it very well should be. To professionals in UX, though, it’s also something else, namely a tool, a way of addressing the non-technological, non-technical part of a product or service chain – the user, the human being in the equation – in a knowledgable, skillful and constructive manner.

    Here, I penned a wee ditty on it: http://www.jesperwille.com/the-empathy-tool/
    (I know about “nofollow”, not trying to link farm or whatever they call it)

    Thank you!

  • http://reddolan.com/ Chaunce ‘Red’ Dolan

    Whitney, I completely agree with you on this. However, I am still finding it hard to put it into words where executives don’t feel like I am getting too touchy feely or esoteric when it comes to the benefits of empathy in UX. How would you say that empathy benefits business, or tell a client that your empathy will benefit them?

    • http://www.whitneyhess.com/blog Whitney Hess

      Our role isn’t to *tell* our clients or stakeholders anything. Our role is to identify and solve their problems. *Show* them how empathy benefits business by demonstrating it to your customers, your coworkers and your superiors. Show them compassion by making their pain go away. What do they need? What do they fear? Can you answer those questions. Don’t just teach the principles, live them.