Cultivating Compassion

Being a great designer isn’t just about devising the best possible solution; it’s about making sure we’re solving the right problem. To do so, we need to hone our listening skills and deepen our capacity for empathy — both for our users and our colleagues. This requires being present, open-minded, caring, patient and accepting. It also means having greater self-awareness to overcome our blind spots. In this lesson you will find 5 resources for cultivating compassion and bringing greater wisdom into your work and life.

  1. People Styles at Work

    Take the People Styles Self-Assessment Inventory in chapter 3 to determine your personal style. Now think of the person you have the most tension with at know the one. Go back through the assessment as though you were that person to figure out their style. Consider how your conflicts could be overcome by better understanding one another.

  2. How Not To Be Alone

    Read this article in the NY Times about how technology is making us less present. Get a small notepad and pen you can keep in your pocket or purse. For one week, keep a count of every time you check your phone while waiting in a line; every time you reach for your phone while sitting across from a friend at dinner; every time you send a text or email when it would have been easier to call. At the end of the week, make a commitment to cut this number by half and see what happens.

  3. Your body language shapes who you are

    Take a moment right now to audit your body. How are you sitting (or standing)? Where are your shoulders? Where is your chin? Are you slanted? Is your jaw clenched? Are you experiencing any pain in your body that you’ve been ignoring? Now go watch this TED Talk with Amy Cuddy to learn just how much how we pose shapes how we feel. Then as she suggests, before your most important meeting today, take two minutes to strike a power pose. Observe what transpires next.

  4. Ford Motor Company’s Empathy Belly

    Watch this video on how one engineering team works to better understand the needs of a segment of their customers. What does your team do to vicariously experience the perspective of your users? Consider one need that your users have that isn't shared by anyone else on your team and sketch a device that could be used to simulate it during the design process.

  5. Listening with Empathy

    Read the first 28 pages of this book to learn the 4-phase method of empathic listening: preparing for an encounter; the moment of encounter; empathic communication; post-encounter processing. It’s common sense, but not common practice. Write it in the front of your notebook with a few notes that struck you in the reading. Practice the method in your next meeting with your boss. How has your perception changed? What did you learn that will motivate you? How will you integrate this practice in the rest of your life?

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