Merriam Webster simply defines Empathy as:
"the feeling that you understand and share another person's experiences and emotions : the ability to share someone else's feelings"
Empathy requires a deeper level of realism than sympathy. It requires the ability to look from another persons perspective, not to it from your own perspective.
Monday of this week started with honoring Dr. Marin Luther King Jr. and his dream. Dr King was able to lead during his lifetime because he had a deep empathy for the other people in this world going through similar struggles. The greatest leaders of our time use empathy to gain followers and with those followers collectively solve large problems.
Today Macklemore and Ryan Lewis released a new song about the role white privilege has played in their life. The song chronicles Macklemore's recent experiences marching in Black Lives Matter protests and being a part of the hip hop community. The song shows an understanding and empathy of both sides of the table. The greatest artists of our time use empathy to create great and relatable work.
Steve Job's knew empathy in design was the path to creating groundbreaking new products. The best product designers know their customers because they are their customers. Empathy guides the creation of the product. The greatest products of our time were built by founders who had the ability to empathize with the customers they are helping.
Last week I stood in the middle of a field in Africa while a plane flew overhead and dropped bags of food to the ground. Myself and others began to run, grab as much as we could, and carried home what we had picked up to feed our families. I experienced this shockingly first person perspective while wearing a $20 Google cardboard Virtual Reality headset in my living room. I was amazed at how real it felt. You should have seen the look on my Grandfather's face when I had him try it too.
Technology enabled me and the others who tried it, to in that moment empathize immediately in a way that reading text simply never could do as powerfully or effectively. Empathy is an incredibly powerful ability. With constant new technology and the increasing free flow of information on the internet I expect empathy to grow to be a more naturally occurring and common part of society. The earliest test of this theory is and will be the attitude of Millennials as they have had the greatest exposure to new technologies and open information. In the next few years we will see if I am right, but I believe an open mind and empathy are the way of the future.