Why Build Empathy? (and 3 tips for doing it)

Why Build Empathy?

Building empathy is a great tool when you run into the challenge of people not reacting in the way that you thought they might. Did you offer a free event but they didn’t show up? Did you try to reach out in a new language but heard back from no one? When we use tools that build empathy, we can better understand what goes through people’s minds when they make decisions and redirect our messages and actions accordingly. One BIG thing to note, building empathy does NOT mean you can fully understand a person- especially when they come from a different background than you. What it DOES mean is you can better understand their decision-making process and hypothesis how to create a better solution for them.

  1. Just Ask.
    What was going through your head when you picked up that brochure? What made you think that? When I asked local educational partners that work with one of our national clients about their challenges with outreach to populations who are under-served, I found they were spending a lot of time reworking my clients presentations to reduce lingo and be more relevant to their area. They never thought about how more simplified, modular educational tools could make their outreach easier and how it might benefit all of the educational partners. What questions might you ask? We love to ask questions, if you want to talk to us about it.

2. Walk in their shoes.
What steps to people go through when interacting with your organization? How do they learn about it? What do they see when they first enter? Who do they talk to? All of these elements add up to people’s full experience of your organization. You can literally walk though their experience with your organization and notice the steps people go through to get there. Create a simple Experience Map of each step then look for where the high points and pain points are. How might you help someone be less nervous when signing up for a class or help them feel more like part of the organization while they are taking it?

3. Look for behaviors.
If you ask people, ‘what would you like to see?’ many people will answer as if they are in a fantasy land – they would like everything to be sustainable and free and bring peace to the earth. Why didn’t you think of that?! The reality is people have to make tough, complex decisions about what they value at every stage they interact with you and they can’t always predict how they will get there. Rather than asking them what they’d like, look for what they already do in similar situations, such as where they currently spend their time or money. For example, a museum client of our wanted to know if an in-house cafe might bring in more visitors. People were excited about the idea but when asked about their habits, they were more interested in pairing a visit with trying out one of the surrounding restaurants - leading to restaurant partnership opportunities instead of investing in food service!

Don’t loose sleep wondering how you can better engage people. With these 3 tips, you can better understand how people experience your organization and where there are opportunities for improvement. Wanting to know where to go from here? Sign up for our email list to look for future posts about ideating and prototyping your user-centered solutions!