Empathy in journalism, management and explanation

Sometimes when I’m free-range reading I come across things In Threes. This time it’s empathy.

The Evolution of User Experience | Whitney Hess

Whitney Hess talks about how she’s evolved her career in response to what she sees happening around her. Right now, she’s evolving into a kind of compassion coach who’s working on developing empathy in the workplace.

I eventually realized that doing the work for my clients wasn’t really teaching them anything. They were outsourcing their empathy. So my new purpose became to help product teams establish a user experience practice. I led workshops for stakeholders to understand the value of the process. I trained team members on how to conduct every method. I worked across projects, across products and across the entire organization to create a culture shift.

But while they’d worked to build empathy for their customers, they had no empathy for one another. There were still turf wars, interpersonal conflicts and unilateral decision making. So my new purpose became to coach senior leaders and product teams on cultivating compassion for customers and colleagues… This is where I am now. I’m learning how to be a coach. I’m learning how to measure and develop empathy in others.

The Art of Explanation | Lee LeFever (Common Craft)

In his book The Art of Explanation, Common Craft’s Lee LeFever says that explanation requires empathy.

Every once in a while I encounter someone who is a natural explainer… These people seek out unique and helpful ways to explain ideas to others. Sometimes they are teachers and journalists who combine their natural communication style with a focus on the professional standards of their profession. When I meet one of these people I look for common traits and ask: what do great explainers have in common? In a word, it is empathy. Great explainers have the ability to picture themselves in another person’s shoes and communicate from that perspective.

How journalists can improve their storytelling by embracing design thinking | Poynter

Poynter looks at how journalists are embracing design thinking to help them focus on users and better storytelling. The post walks through “the five pillars of design thinking — empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test”.

Most people come to a “story with an idea, a perspective or a hypothesis,” [Leticia Britos Cavagnaro] said; being empathetic means having the “ability to talk to someone and really let go of those preconceptions.” The goal of empathy is to gain insight or “put myself in the shoes of the other person or the many different stakeholders,” Britos Cavagnaro said. Use empathy by asking open-ended questions and actively listening to uncover people’s needs and motivations. Asking “Why?” often is effective.

Northwestern University Knight Lab’s Miranda Mulligan said in an in-person interview that it’s important to challenge your assumptions and test whether they’re valid. Ask yourself: What would my audience like to know? Once you think you understand, dig deeper. Go back and interview your sources or audience again and test the conclusions you’re making.