Recently I felt that magic moment when deep empathy emerges as I was wrapping up an engagement with a client. You may have felt this moment…when all of the sudden something comes into focus for the first time that makes everything clearer. You can hear a pin drop when it happens and then the energy escalates rapidly. That, my friend, is magic and empathy can help you experience it.
We know it when we feel it. And, design thinking empathy tools help us get there with more confidence. Empathy helps us see the whole person, not just the pieces of them that directly relate to our vested interests.
In design thinking we don’t just study the problem up close. We look at it in context. Then we look at the broader context of the stakeholder we are hoping to help. We see the system overall, especially the human system within. If you just focus on the problem up close you may miss empathy for the person. Yet, human empathy is often where things begin to make sense and deep insights emerge that immediately fuel ideas.
So, how do you get to empathy?
- move to the natural habitat of the person you hope to learn about
- become curious and open for discovery
- never lead with direct questions on what your needs are
- do more listening and less questioning or talking
- pay even more attention to what is not said or body language that speaks volumes
- suspend your judgements and just accept their truth