We play “designer,”
when we act to fulfill an emotional need.
Wish to fulfill your need for communication with those far away?
Play “designer” to design a mail system.
We play “judge,”
when we blame someone.
Wish to label someone at fault?
Play “judge” to peruse the evidence & make a decision.
We may play them well or poorly,
but once we become aware of these roles,
they are available for our choosing
from moment to moment,
even if they’re not on our business cards.
The question is “What role do we want to play?”
Whatever our answer,
it’ll profoundly affect our sense of identity.
The sense of who we are,
from where our thoughts & behaviors
will naturally flow,
at least temporarily.
To empathize with the familiar,
all we need is to have empathy
before we can realize empathy.
But artists empathize with the unfamiliar,
So do anthropologists.
For them, having empathy is insufficient.
They need to be able to realize empathy,
when it doesn’t do so automatically.
This requires the mercy
of the creative process.
But, just as martial artists cannot will her victory,
we cannot will a realization.
Just as martial artists can only practice
to increase her probability of victory,
We can only practice to increase our probability
Except our end isn’t mere victory,
This is a Janusian Art,
as Martial is from the Roman God of war, Mars,
and Janusian is from the Roman God of transition, Janus.
Here’s something I learned from carpentry.
Wood is wood.
No matter my desire,
it’ll never be metal.
If I must only use wood
to make furniture,
I have no choice, but to
listen to, and
consider its context.
This is not because I’m a good moral person.
It’s just physics.
This doesn’t mean we should do as the wood tells us, though.
In fact, woods don’t speak!
It just reacts to our behavior.
To realize our empathy is to
be creative in our response to the reaction of an “other,”
so as to flow with them,
It’s when we’re in such state of togetherness
that we can use our power
with each other,
against each other.
is only a conflict between
Our feeling of what reality
ought to be.”
I define tension
as a conflict between
What we have
What we need or value.
When I noticed
the remarkable similarity
between these two,
that we can either
judge tension as “bad,”
so as to frame it as a “problem.”
We can let it evoke
our curiosity and wonder
so as to frame it
as a “paradox.”
can be ours.
Designers have worked with resistance since the dawn of time.
The first caveman who drew on cave walls
were met with resistance from those walls
and leveraged it as the very means through which they created.
Whenever someone behaves in ways we interpret as “resistance,”
all it means is we’re struggling to create.
What human interaction designers do with resistance
is leverage it as the very means through which we create.
Until we learn this art,
we’ll feel nothing but frustration & resentment
in our attempt to bring about innovation in our interactions & organizations.
Guess what lies at the heart of this art?
Our willingness & ability to realize our empathy.
“What has happened since our last session?” I asked.
He’d been feeling bad for his employees.
He felt like he was failing them.
With guilt on deck,
underperforming employees fueled his resentment.
He was spending so much time and effort trying to be a better leader,
being understanding and supportive of them.
They, on the other hand, were not.
“I confessed my guilt to my employees.”
“What do you feel right now?”
“What did you learn?”
“That all this time I was hyper-empathizing instead of empathizing.
That to empathize,
it’s not enough to understand.
I also have to be honest with myself and others.”
Empathizing is not merely about others.
It’s about the relationship between ourselves and others.
Let us not forget ourselves.
Some of you replied to my last email asking how micro-managing can be good.
I’ll answer in a roundabout way.
My clients aspire to do good as leaders.
Good to employees, customers,…
It’s like wanting to be good parents.
Who can argue with that?
The irony is that trying to do good has not made an impact or made things worse.
This is one reason why realizing empathy is so critical.
We have an image of what “good” looks like.
But that’s what we think.
Doesn’t mean others will also appreciate the image as “good.”
I owe one of my most amazing growth experience to being micro-managed.
To be empathic is to be context-sensitive.
Our “good(s)” are unappreciated? We’ve misunderstood the context.
Some of our tensions
come from sitting around
a computer screen.
Do a few burpees.
and write on the whiteboard.
If you’re breathing shallow,
breathe from your belly.
look up at the ceiling for a few seconds
Submerge your face
in ice-cold water for a few seconds,
a few times.
For a period of time,
holding a frozen water bottle in your hand.
Receive emotional support.
Get the help of a professional.
Whatever you do,
may we remember
there exists the option
to choose to take the first step
to relieving our tension.
Whether we do it ourselves
or ask for the help of others,
may we make the choice.
I’m writing to express my gratitude to Ravit at the United check-in counter inside Tel Aviv, Israel‘s Ben Gurion Airport.
I hope Ravit gets the recognition she deserves. I can’t remember the last time I met a check-in agent so vivacious and, dare I say, fun to interact with.
While my trip to Israel had been inspiring, I was tired nonetheless. I could not wait to get back home. Until I encountered Ravit, my energy was low. I was also grumpy that I could not check in at the kiosk just because I wanted to check a bag. From the first interaction, Ravit joked with me in a tone so playful and warm that I could not help, but laugh along. Her presence was like an oasis to an otherwise dried-up state of mind. So much so that I was grateful that I did not check in at the kiosk. I felt restored and refreshed after our interaction. I cannot tell you how much I appreciated that.
Facing people as an agent at the check-in counter while being true to a personality so vivacious and playful is not an easy thing to do. Especially when everyone else in the airport seems so serious and stern (This is not a criticism. I know it is well warranted given how serious the security situation is in Israel). Not only that, but given the kinds of struggles many people experience at the airport, I wouldn’t be surprised if she has experienced people who respond to her energy in negative ways. All this means it would have been much safer for Ravit to express no emotions and instead focus on getting her task done. But no, Ravit was willing to be vulnerable enough to be herself and treat me as a human being, not merely a task to be completed.
Thank you Ravit for your willingness to bring brightness and positivity to a world that is often biased toward darkness and negativity. I consider your actions a good example of the kind of micro-innovation I hope to see more in the world. May you continue to bring joy to the lives of people with whom you come in contact.
Let us not confuse concern with love.
There’s nothing wrong with feeling concern for the people we love. At the same time, concern arises out of fear, not love. Yes, concern can be fueled by care, but care is not love.
It’s worth asking ourselves if desires like “I want my employees to perform better” or “I want my students to be successful,” are born out of fear or love.
The kinds of design that emerge out of repressed and unidentified fear can be unhelpful to others at best and harmful at its worst.