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January 17, 2014

Build empathy using a simple mental map

In a 2013 ‘How I Hire‘ LinkedIn®  column, IDEO CEO Tim Brown listed deep empathy as a key element of emotional intelligence; a trait equal to insatiable curiosity, irrepressible optimism and playing well with others.

Ann Padley | A-Ha! Blog SeriesThere is a tool commonly used in service design called an empathy map. It’s often used to help designers document observations gained through one-on-one interviews or other interactions with the person he or she is designing for. I’ve found it to be a great way to gain some deeper insights into what I’ve learned, not to mention a valuable tool to explain observations to others.

Tim Brown’s column started me thinking: What if each one of us created a mental empathy map template? What if we kept that template in our mind and used it every time we interacted with another human being? Would it change the way we see them? Would we better understand their motivation or their pain?

In this mental template we would include sections for what the individual is saying and doing. Then, here’s where empathy really comes in, sections that make us pause and think: What she is thinking? How is she feeling?

If you’re a visual type, like myself, your mental map might look something like this:

Empathy Map | Ann Padley, Blue Door Consulting

Are you too wondering how the world might look? Check out this video from Cleveland Clinic on Empathy in patient care.

What does your mental empathy map look like? If you’re looking for inspiration, do a simple Google® Images search for ‘Empathy Map.’