Of course you wouldn’t. You are not them.
We often forget this. We are surprised at how people respond to a survey, to a question, to an interaction. They respond differently to us. They are offended when we are not. Or they keep their cards close to their chest when we openly share ours. They follow a different etiquette than we do. They read instructions and do ‘A’ when we thought we were clear and we’re telling them to do ‘B’.
Why would you do that?
Is often our response. It’s a close cousin of the first reaction. Parents respond to children in this way, but it’s not just them. This happens in every single aspect of our lives. Organisational change and digital transformation is no different.
We tend to think others think like us. We put ourselves in their shoes. The thing is we are not them. We have different life experiences which shape our way of seeing the world. The other thing is that while we think we are responding rationally, so do they. The rationale is just different.
Empathy is not about putting ourselves in their shoes. Empathy is about trying to leave ourselves behind and embody them. This applies to ‘simpler’ things like trying to remember what it is like not being digital literate or learning something for the first time. But also more complex things like being discriminated against because of your race or gender or both. Or using technology that has racist ideals inbuilt into it.
One more thing. Empathy is a skill, which can be learnt and takes practice. But like all skills, before we are good at it we are bad at it.
Learning is a choice that is up to us.
Photo by Jakob Owens