Realizing Empathy can be Difficult

Empathy realizing by itself is easy.
Realizing empathy, on the other hand, can be difficult.

Sometimes this is difficult due to a bias or a lack awareness.
But that’s not all.
What can also make it difficult is tension.

Tension is a conflict between what our mind needs or values vs what it has instead.

When we experience too much tension, we can become mired in the discomfort or pain.
In this state, we have no room in our being to realize our empathy.

When two people are experiencing significant tension, without the help of a 3rd-party—not only free of significant tension, but also well-versed in the art of realizing empathy—, it is unlikely the two will be able to realize empathy with each other.

To be a Better Designer, Attend to Your Pain

We experience tension
when there’s a conflict
between what we expect or need
VS what we have

Design begins
when we take responsibility
for clarifying,
and addressing
our tension.

Say we expect computers
to be more usable.
We begin to design
the moment we take responsibility
for clarifying,
and addressing
this tension.

We don’t always design, though.

we push responsibility

We blame.

This is normal.

Especially when tension
accompanies pain.

If we wish to design
may we attend to our pain

Before it becomes
an untreated wound.

A wound that can be irritated
leaving us
with such a low threshold
for tension
that we end up spending
too much of our time blaming
instead of designing.

When Diversity & Inclusion Programs Don’t Work

Most diversity and inclusion programs are primarily concerned with biases. They attempt to change someone’s behavior by telling them they’re biased. This could be effective if people were merely unaware of their biases.

In all other cases, it’s important to recognize that biases may also be either directly or indirectly fulfilling a basic human need. If letting go of a bias means depriving ourselves of our needs, we’ll experience tension. Now it’s no longer just a matter of awareness. It’s also a matter of fulfilling our needs and relieving our tension. That’s much harder.

If we’re serious about diversity and inclusion, we have to also help people discover or create an alternative way of fulfilling their needs.

Pause, Reflect, Relieve Tension

When we live a life
too busy
to pause
to reflect,
we can feel overwhelmed
with things
to do.

We’re constantly seeking
to release our tension.

Yet no matter what we do
we don’t feel our tension

Mired in tension,
we also don’t feel
we have any room in our being
to be fully present
with others,
to be wholly honest
to others,
to be sufficiently receptive
of others.

So we interrupt them,
we present them
with a mask of politeness,
we yell
and criticize them.

All behaviors
that fuel disconnection
despite best intentions
and our—ironically—
deep-seated need
for connection.

One of the simplest,
yet most important
and difficult things we can do
as founders
is to relieve ourselves
of our own tension,
by realizing empathy
with ourselves.