5 Concrete Ways To Build Empathy Into Your Creative Practice

IMAGE: Three women working together on papers on a table

The concept of empathy has become ubiquitous in corporate culture—though some would argue that it’s just a trend. On a societal level, though, we’re dealing with an empathy crisis—and as creatives, the solution’s in our hands.

What is empathy?

Psychologists and empathy specialists Daniel Goleman and Paul Ekman have broken empathy down into not just one definition, but three different types.

Cognitive empathy is understanding what another human being is feeling, and potentially what they are thinking. Having cognitive empathy leads to better communication, negotiation, and motivation.

Emotional empathy is actually feeling what another person feels, whether that is joy or pain. We may feel the same whether we experience the emotion or whether we see someone else experience it. Daniel describes this as emotional contagion, which could be attributed to themirror neuron concept.

Compassionate empathy is both understanding a person’s situation and feeling for them, ultimately resulting in some kind of action.

What empathy isn’t

Empathy isn’t simply a soft skill, a fluffy feel-good term, or a tool for business. Empathy also isn’t about becoming so absorbed in a person or a situation that you let others take advantage of you.

Katherine Bell, former editor of Harvard Business Review, put it eloquently when she described her experience with empathy.

“I’ve learned that empathy isn’t about being nice or tolerant. It’s not about feeling sorry for people or giving them the benefit of the doubt. It’s an act of imagination in which you try to look at the world from the perspective of another person, a human being whose history and point of view are as complex as your own.”

Empathy in action

Empathy is an absolutely critical piece of a productive and functioning relationship. It’s the driving force of my business; I run Make a Mark, an organization bringing together altruistic creators and innovative humanitarian organizations. We hold 12-hour design and development make-a-thons benefitting local nonprofit organizations.

We learned early on that empathy is critical to the make-a-thon process, and we still take care to nurture that element of all the make-a-thons we run. Our projects are successful because of the depth of the relationships, community, and, ultimately, a strong sense of empathy beginning with the organizers.

As part of this, we work with site leaders around the globe to help craft the events. These site leaders are our eyes on the ground, working to build the perfect event for their specific community with our guidance and framework.

These two groups often have no understanding of how the other functions. Makers might talk about wireframes and vector files and hosting, while nonprofit leaders might talk about line items or tax codes or grant monitoring.

Our role is to facilitate successful brainstorming and build mutual respect—through empathy. While being empathetic leads to a more understanding, caring, and actionable society, it also leads to better results. Success comes from understanding who we work with—and for.

That is why in 12 hours, maker teams can craft something that would normally take months to create. They dig in so deeply with such open hearts and minds that the result is also always magical—often leaving nonprofits and makers in tears.

Create a better workflow

Understanding your coworkers is a key function of empathy in the workplace. In the US, we spend roughly 1/3 of our adult life at work—meaning we spend more of our waking hours with our coworkers than our family members.

While this is a trend that I certainly hope changes, with more remote companies like InVision and the opportunity to start our own initiatives, this means that finding ways to collaborate effectively and positively with our coworkers is key to our success and our happiness.

Being able to deeply relate to your clients is an essential element of empathy. In our relationships with nonprofits, we understand that their working lives are very different than our lives, or the lives of a designer in New York or developer in San Francisco; nonprofit employees often spend their days underpaid, under-resourced, and scrutinized by grant monitors, all while attempting to serve their populations.

While we are the experts on design and development for these organizations, these individuals are also experts in their fields—and we have a lot that we can learn from them. In 2016, at our second make-a-thon in Virginia, we were meeting with an organization providing temporary housing to the homeless during the cold winter months.

They applied for the make-a-thon needing a new website, and when we met with them and their maker team we were prepared to craft a sleek, feature-rich website. It became clear, however, after a few minutes of talking to their representative, that the real need was getting the information about the shelter to those experiencing homelessness—most of whom don’t have computers. But they do have smartphones.

We immediately scrapped the idea of a stylish and robust website and decided to focus on something hyper-simple and incredibly mobile-friendly. If we hadn’t paused to understand what the person experiencing homelessness was feeling and thinking (cognitive empathy), felt the struggle of that individual to find a place to stay (emotional empathy), and re-thought our whole approach to creating their website (compassionate empathy), then we wouldn’t have brought a useful, relevant solution for the nonprofit and their population in dire need.

Building empathy

So how do we actively build empathy? Is there any way to actually increase our empathy, especially in our work? Absolutely!

Ask questions

Too often we assume that we know the answer to questions from past experiences; that we know what a person is like and how they will act. Alternatively, we may view someone as so different from us that there is no way that we could collaborate or reach a common ground.

By asking questions, we challenge existing notions and increase our cognitive empathy. A few examples: How does this situation make you feel? What is the outcome you are hoping for? Can you explain your perspective to help me understand?

Of course, it isn’t just about the question that you ask; it’s also about the way that you ask it. Make sure that you approach the other calmly and openly so they don’t feel attacked or criticized. Asking questions is easy, but listening can be hard—because we regularly listen for the answers we want to hear.

Listening requires both your eyes and your ears. You can learn a lot from someone’s body language. Are they tense? Why are they tense? Is it because this topic is uncomfortable to them? If so, why? This leads to additional questions.

By listening, asking questions, and listening some more, we’re able to extend our cognitive empathy.

Consider outside factors (and leave your ego at the door)

Listening with both senses gives us insight into who people are—and why they are that way.

Maybe a coworker walks into the office in the morning and ignores your hello. This doesn’t mean that you are the cause of their frustration, even if you are the recipient of it.

I recall a time in a past job that a coworker that I worked closely with was consistently sending terse emails to me about materials that she was waiting for. These emails came frequently and often for no reason, straining our relationship. I dismissed this coworker as hostile and limited interactions with her, leading to poor collaborations and sub-par results.

I eventually spoke to another coworker about the situation and was informed that she was working to maintain her composure while her father was struggling with a chronic illness.

This opened my eyes to the vast situations that we all experience and improved my emotional empathy. I asked myself how I would maintain my positive attitude and interactions with coworkers while someone I loved deeply was struggling physically? How would I want my coworkers to treat me?

Allow time for reflection

Reflection is something that I personally value immensely. Anytime I am part of a meeting that I am not leading myself, I am radio silent. Ok, maybe not radio silent, but I like to listen and take in the information, digest it and return with my perspective.

Not everyone works like this, and not everyone should; if they did, meetings would be a bunch of people sitting around a table staring at each other. This reflection period, however, has its place—and certainly a role in building empathy.

We take in a lot of information every day, navigating complicated personal and professional relationships with coworkers and clients. With all that thinking, we need to spend some time reflecting—to better understand, navigate, and nurture those relationships.

Take action

With some thoughtfulness and a lot of care, empathy can be yours. This doesn’t mean you need to do something right at this moment, but keep in mind the outside forces, the internal struggles, and the predispositions of those you’re working with. Ask questions, listen, and reflect. Then, do what you believe is right—for your company, for your work, for others and for yourself.

Want to learn more about empathy?

Sarah Obenauer

 

By: Sarah Obenauer

Sarah Obenauer is the Founder & Director of Make a Mark, an organization created to provide resources and foster an environment where community organizations and visual communicators can engage with one another to better our world.Make a Mark’s flagship event is a 12-hour design and development marathon benefiting humanitarian causes.

Source: 5 concrete ways to build empathy into your creative practice | Inside Design Blog

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Empathy is a cornerstone for successful relationships, but it is a quality that has to be intentional. Most people like to feel understood, but the mark of maturity is in knowing how to demonstrate understanding. In the end, the understanding you wish to receive becomes more likely. Dr. Les Carter shares a story, then 9 essential adjustments that will help you become a more empathetic person.
Dr. Les Carter is a best selling author and therapist who lives in Dallas, TX. Over the past 39 years he has conducted 60,000 counseling sessions and many workshops and seminars. Books by Dr. Carter: https://store.bookbaby.com/book/When-… https://www.amazon.com/When-Pleasing-… https://www.amazon.com/Anger-Trap-You… https://www.amazon.com/Enough-About-Y… While Dr. Carter does not conduct online counseling, he has vetted a group who can assist you: https://betterhelp.com/drcarter (sponsored) Dr. Carter’s online workshops on narcissism, anger management, and overcoming infidelity: http://drlescarter.com/video-workshops/
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In Denmark, Empathy Is Taught As A School Subject That Kids Must Learn From A Very Young Age

When a baby is born, their mind is a clean slate. How they are exposed to the world decides what gets written on it, which subsequently decides what type of person they will become. This does mean that at an impressionable age, the child should be taught things that will shape them into a person who will grow up to contribute to society.

They will learn to pick up kindness, empathy, generosity, honesty instead of other detrimental qualities. When a whole generation of children grows up with good attributes, the world will definitely be a better place to live in.

In Denmark, they place a lot of importance on cultivating empathy in their children. Believe it or not, people do not actually care about others’ well-being. It is something we are socialized into and something that is necessary for us to survive. While math and science are important in life, Denmark knows that empathy is much more important a life lesson that will take people further than numbers and formulas ever will.

This is why Danish schools decided to introduce mandatory empathy classes in 1993. In these classes, children aged 6-16 are taught how to be kind, according to My Modern Met.

The children during the empathy classes or “Klassens tid” are asked to share any problems or issues they are going through. The entire class pitches in to help find a solution. Kids grow up to become confident, emotionally intelligent adults, who will know not to judge people for their struggles. This also means that they are more likely to raise happier kids themselves.

Denmark has consistently been at the top of the UN’s World Happiness Report. In the latest report, Denmark stood in second place followed by Finland. Denmark has been at the top in 2012, 2013, and 2016. Perhaps the empathy classes have a lot to contribute in this aspect.

The Danish Way stated, “Empathy helps build relationships, prevent bullying and succeed at work. It promotes the growth of leaders, entrepreneurs, and managers. ‘Empathic teenagers’ tend to be more successful because they are more oriented towards the goals compared to their more narcissistic peers.” Empathy is also taught through teamwork where those excelling and those lacking are made to work together.

This not only helps with understanding the positive qualities of each other but also lift each other up to complete a task without being pulled down by competition with each other. Another popular program is called the CAT-kit. In this program, the aim is to improve emotional awareness and empathy by focusing on how to articulate experiences, thoughts, feelings, and senses, reported The Atlantic.

There are picture cards of faces, measuring sticks to gauge the intensity of emotions, and pictures of the body, included in the CAT-kit so kids can understand the emotions being exhibited while also learning to conceptualize their own and others’ feelings. In the classroom setting, along with the facilitator, the children are taught not to be judgemental but acknowledge and respect these sentiments.

“A child who is naturally talented in mathematics, without learning to collaborate with their peers, will not go much further. They will need help in other subjects. It is a great lesson to teach children from an early age since no one can go through life alone,” says Jessica Alexander, author of the book The Danish Way of Parenting: What the Happiest People in the World Know About Raising Confident, Capable Kids. She adds,

“Many studies show that when you explain something to someone – like a math problem for example – you not only learn the subject much better than you would do by memorizing it yourself, but you also build our empathy skills which are further strengthened by having to be careful about the way the other person receives the information and having to put oneself in their shoes to understand how learning works.”

Source: In Denmark, Empathy Is Taught As A School Subject That Kids Must Learn From A Very Young Age

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Anxiety levels are rising among primary and secondary school children across the globe. For parents and educators, this is a worrying trend. What are we doing wrong and what could we be doing to fix it? Could Denmark’s teaching practices hold the key to happiness in the classroom. By Mariana Rudan. #denmark #education #teachingempathy #danisheducation #marianarudan
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Personalize The eLearning Experience Through A Culture Of Empathy

personalize-elearning-experience-culture-empathy

How Empathy Can Enable A Personalized eLearning Experience: Having empathy and understanding what empathy is, means that you have the ability to see the world through the eyes of another and understand and share their feelings. Lots of people have the capacity to empathize. You could say it’s in our nature, allowing us to build prosperous relationships amongst various societies. To paraphrase Daniel H. Pink, successful people in this age of information overload will be those who can understand their peers and care for them. Empathy is the ability to step into another person’s shoes and experience their feelings. Empathy is not a standalone concept.

  1. The design should be from a user’s perspective to anticipate their problems and come up with a product/service that helps.
  2. Stories are the path to understanding.

Empathy In Learning

For learning to be empathetic, it has to understand the learners’ mindset, working environment, challenges and factor them in to offer a solution. It should build a personal connection with them.

This is how it can be done in eLearning:

  • Personalize the learning experience
  • Offer simple and open navigation
  • Reinforce knowledge with diagnostic feedback

Personalize The Learning Experience

This isn’t rocket science. Ask for the learner’s name at the start of the course and use it to address them periodically for the assessments, while sharing tips or summarizing the key points. This will build a connection between the learner and the course. Offering additional resources in multiple formats will give learners the flexibility of accessing the one in their preferred format. For example, do you need to offer a glossary of terms? Offer learners links to a PDF, a podcast, and an infographic. Use ice breakers that list learners’ common challenges or the questions they might have. Seeing their issues in the course will build an immediate rapport and give the assurance that their concerns are being addressed allaying fear.

Offer Simple And Open Navigation

Adults are self-directed and dislike being restricted in their learning. An effective eLearning course gives them the option to access the sections of the course they are interested in, instead of forcing them to go through the entire course. Put yourselves in the learners’ shoes and empathize. You surely wouldn’t want to look for a needle in a haystack!

Some tips to ensure a memorable learning experience:

  1. Structure the course into well-defined sections, each covering one learning point completely so that learners don’t have to scramble around different sections for one topic.
  2. Ensure navigation is easy to use, with a simple, well-labeled menu (learners shouldn’t need to access the Help screen to figure out how to use the menu).
  3. Ensure screen titles in the menu are of the same length and parallel in structure.
  4. For interactivities, let learners proceed to the next slide if they wish to without forcing them to visit all sections.
  5. Provide links to additional resources in the Resources section, rather than in individual slides, so that they are available throughout the course.

Reinforce Knowledge With Diagnostic Feedback

Feedback can be an extremely useful mechanism to close the learning cycle and show them the big picture, yet again. Instead of feedback that just says, “You are right” or “Sorry, you are wrong,” invest a little in offering feedback that’s true to its name. Feedback should tell learners why they are either right or wrong, along with the reasons. Informative assessments, give learners a detailed explanation about why a particular choice is correct or incorrect. In summative assessments, once done, give them the option of revisiting the slide where the learning point was discussed.

  • Authoring tools now give the flexibility of including audio, video clips, and hyperlinks along with the text.
  • Leverage these elements to offer learners a detailed explanation on the topic, along with related resources.

Being empathetic and having empathy matters. Learn about how to utilize the ability to step into another person’s shoes and experience their feelings by downloading this free eBook: “eLearning Design And The ‘Right’ Brain.” It will further help you become a ‘Right’ brain expert; and, moreover, learn how its role in learning can be of use to you.

Photo of Sushmitha Kolagani

 

By: Sushmitha Kolagani

 

Source: https://elearningindustry.com/

In a fractured world, can we hack our own sense of empathy and get others to become more empathic? Professor, Department of Psychology, Stanford University Jamil Zaki is an assistant professor of psychology at Stanford University. His research examines social cognition and behavior, especially how people understand and respond to each other’s emotions. This work spans a number of domains, social influence, prosocial behavior, and especially empathy (see ssnl.stanford.edu for details). In addition to studying the mechanics of empathy, Dr. Zaki’s work focuses on helping people empathize better. For instance, new research from his lab examines how to encourage empathy for people from distant political and ethnic groups, and also how caregivers and healthcare professionals can effectively empathize with their patients while maintaining their own well being. http://ssnl.stanford.edu ~~~ This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx
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