Empathy = (Ability x Proximity)
Experiencing empathy is a function of Ability and Proximity.
Free-writing in Character
You’ll need a timer and a pen & paper.
- Think of someone you’d like to empathize with, like a customer, character, or coworker.
- Then reflect for a moment on their perspective: what do they want and why?
- Set your timer for 5 minutes, imagine you’re that person, and write a letter about what that’s like.
- The rules are simple: stay in character, ignore mistakes, and don’t stop writing until time is up.
- Keep the letter; you’ll need it tomorrow!
Hey, welcome to the Creative Empathy 3-Day Challenge. This crash course is a brief introduction to the absolute basics of creative empathy.
It’s made up of three lessons with an exam at the end, and you’ll get one email per day to start on the next lesson. Each lesson includes audio and a written transcript. And at the end, you can earn a certificate if you pass the exam.
Okay? So today’s lesson.
Let’s start by busting two myths about empathy in general.
Myth number one is this idea that empathy is about what would I do in the other person’s situation. But that’s not really right. Empathy is more about what do I need when I feel like that person is feeling.
Myth number two, is empathy is magic. You either have it or you don’t. But that’s not true either. Anyone can learn empathy if they want to.
Here’s what I call the Eindhoven empathy model. It’s very simple, and it’s basically this:
Experiencing empathy is a function of a person’s empathic ability and the proximity to the person that they’re trying to empathize with.
Proximity is about how close your experience is to the other person’s.
Your ability is how strong your empathy muscles are.
And it’s a function because if either ability or proximity is zero, empathy can’t happen. But we can make up for a gap in one by boosting the other.
Now, what that means is that someone with high empathic ability can empathize more easily, even if they don’t have much proximity to the person whom they’re trying to empathize with. But it also means that, with a little proximity help, someone with low empathic ability can still empathize with others.
And on that note, today’s exercise is a proximity technique called Free-Writing in Character.
Free writing is a journaling technique that uses continuous writing to give us access to our unconscious mind. I’ll read the instructions now, but they’re also written down in the email for this lesson.
Free-Writing in Character
For this you’ll need a timer, as well as a pen and paper.
- Think of someone you’d like to empathize with, like a customer, or character or friend.
- Then reflect for a moment on their perspective. What do they want and why?
- After that, go ahead and set your timer for five minutes. Imagine you’re that person and write a letter about what that’s like.
- The rules are simple. Stay in character, ignore mistakes, and don’t stop writing until time is up.
- And when you’re done, keep the letter because you’re going to need it for tomorrow.
Enjoy the exercise! I’ll speak with you again tomorrow for day two, where we’ll be talking about the empathic design process.
I’m Brian Pagán. Thanks for listening. 🙏🏼