What Does it Mean to Empathize?
When you feel what the other person is feeling.
When you can mirror their expression, their opinions, and their hopes.
Why is it Important to Empathize?
You will discover people’s expressed and latent needs so that you can meet them through your design solutions.
How do we Empathize With Others?
with a beginner’s eyes
Talk about feelings
“Tell me about the last time you…”
“What was the best…” “What was the worst…
“And why is that?” “Can you tell me more about that?”
What :: How :: Why
what is this person (or persons) doing?
- Notice what is happening both with the person and the context he/she is functioning within.
how are they doing it?
- Pretend you are describing the picture to someone not looking at it.
why are they doing it this way?
- Take a guess. Start to form a story and then ask.
A short example highlights the importance of understanding needs at all three levels of use, usability and meaning. A number of Native American tribes, and in particular, the Mono Indian tribes in Fresno and Madera Counties in California, subsisted on acorn flour prepared by grinding the acorns . The grinding was done by the women in the tribe who all sat around a large, flat granite boulder with holes in it that served as mortars to do their work. In the early 1900s, the U.S. Government attempted to improve the efficiency and productivity of the acorn grinding process by providing iron grinders. The attempt failed. Why? The grinding activity served a variety of purposes beyond simply preparing flour for food. It was the place where women gathered to tell stories and pass along the traditions of their people. The grinding activity provided the backdrop or rhythm for the telling of the stories; the women viewed it as accompaniment to the sharing of their heritage. The U.S. Government approached the problem to be solved as one of food processing, completely missing the much deeper meaning of the activity, and thus failed with its solution. Understanding the broader context might have enabled the development of something much more powerful, and something that would actually be adopted.
Look for needs that are meaningful to THEM, not to you.