Who needs empathy, and why should you care? In the Conceptual Age, where concepts (ideas) are the medium of exchange, the ability to forge relationships and better understand what motivates behavior will distinguish those who flourish and those who don’t, according to Daniel Pink in his book A Whole New Mind .
Empathy is putting yourself in another person’s shoes. It is the ability to overcome our own self-centeredness and ponder what it would be like to be that other person. The object is to feel the other person’s feelings and understand his or her perspective, or as Pink says, to “see with the other person’s eyes and feel with their heart.”
As left-brain-directed, logical, sequential, programmable thinking gets out-sourced to the lowest cost location and continues to become a commodity in the world market, the right-brain-directed emotional ability to empathize becomes increasing prized: it is difficult to do from a distance using electronic means.
Understanding another person’s emotions has become increasingly important. As Pink points out, people’s emotions are seldom put into words and most often appear on their faces. He says that empathy depends on emotion, and to enter another’s heart you must begin by looking into his or her face. Paul Ekman, a leading expert in facial expression, wrote Emotions Revealed, in which he describes how to decode the expressions on someone’s face. He also wrote Telling Lies , which explains how to tell when someone is lying.
Here are some of the URL’s Pink recommends:
For testing our EQ (Empathy Quotient): www.tinyurl.com/dbsd8
On spotting a fake smile: www.tinyurl.com/2u7sh
On reading the eyes: www.tinyurl.com/ckrj3
An Emotional Intelligence Test (for pay): www.emotionalintelligencemhs.com/MSCEIT.htm
Innovation and design will be the primary way in which businesses differentiate themselves. The ability to empathize is one of the keys to success of the staff at IEDO, one of the most respected design firms in the country. To learn more about their use of empathy to innovate go to www.ideo.com .
Want to improve your ability to empathize? Here are a few suggestions from Pink’s book:
• Take an acting class
• Get a copy of the CD Mind Reading at www.jkp.com/mindreading
• Make your own greeting cards
• Volunteer somewhere in your community
So why else does empathy matter? It matters because it will give you the richness that enhanced relationship brings. It offers you a more meaningful life and a chance to make a difference in your life and in the lives of those around you.