SIGIA-L Mail Archives: [Sigia-l] Empathy
All this talk of "empathy"... In all my years as a user experience designer,
I was never taught empathy or specifically tried to train myself to be more
empathetic. I've never taken any kind of personality test to see how
empathetic I am.
Practices like user research and deliverables like user personas certainly
embody the concept of empathy, but so does the work of countless other
professions -- artists/illustrators, doctors, marketers, cops, salespeople,
journalists, yes politicians, even management. Many of them even
specifically include empathy training as part of their academic curricula
and professional development programs. Conversely, I've met information
architects who are very good at what they do but who don't strike me as
particularly empathetic. Pig headedness, self-aggrandizement, insensitivity,
and other non-empathetic personality traits haven't stood in the way of
people becoming excellent at many important aspects of IA.
How have we come to claim empathy as a faculty we posess and utilize more
than people in other professions do?
Personally, I've tried to avoid using the term since IMHO it conjures up a
lot of unprofessional connotations: Like a person in a job interview who
claims "I like working with *people*", a claim to be empathetic can suggest
just the opposite, that one needs to make an overt concerted effort to be
empathetic to compensate for a more fundamental shortcoming of the faculty.
What do you think? Is it fair of us to claim "empathy" as a something that
makes us special?
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: Tue Sep 05 2006 - 00:37:43 EDT