Empathy: The wrong word

Christian ScholeTwin Heart







Artwork by Christian Schole

by Cynthia Wands

When I was a child,  I remember thinking that empathy was another word for sympathy.  I don’t know where I got that idea – but it made for some confusing conversations as I got older. (Especially around funerals and the dialogue around funerals…)

I’ve been blessed with being simpatico, sympathetic, understanding and yes, followed with a strong dash of empathy for the people in my life. A lot of that has to do with being born a twin, and having a twin sister that I could learn from, with and around.

A side effect of all this connecting behaviors, is my impulse towards collaboration.  I’ve come to realize that I work better in a group/cast/team/workshop than left to my own devices.  I feel a stronger sense of obligation/commitment and process in a group dynamic – left alone I tend to distract myself with other issues (does the cat needs another kind of kitty litter?)

So it Iwas very interested in this interview about collaborative design as a kind of “empathy.”

60 Minutes Interview with David Kelley

From 60 Minutes:

What makes a great designer? According to IDEO founder David Kelley, who gave the TED Talks “Human-centered design” and “How to build your creative confidence,” being an incredible designer isn’t necessarily about having a great aesthetic sensibility or coming up with out-of-the-box ideas. No,  Kelley says that the key characteristic is empathy. “Be empathetic.”

He explains, “The big thing about design thinking is it allows people to build on the ideas of others. Instead of just having that one thread. You think about it, I come up with an idea, and then somebody from somewhere else says, ‘Oh that makes me think we should do this and then then we could do that.’ And then you get to a place that you just can’t get to in one mind.”

This reminded me so much of the creative process when we work in theatre together.  And it does bring us to a place where we can’t get to by ourselves.

By Cynthia Wands


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