We are all familiar with the word “empathy,” but few know the name of the woman who introduced the term into the English language.
Empathy is the ability to identify and understand another person’s situation and feelings. We often hear “empathy” used as a synonym for “walking in someone else’s shoes.”
Violet Paget was a Victorian writer who published under the pseudonym Vernon Lee and is known as one of the most intelligent women in Europe. She coined the term “empathy” after noticing how absorbed her partner Clementine Anstruther-Thompson was contemplating a painting.
According to Lee, Clementine “felt herself” with the painting. To describe this process, Lee used the German term “einfuhlung” and introduced the word “empathy” into English.
Lee’s ideas resonate strongly with today’s growing interest in how empathy relates to creativity. Developing one’s creativity is one way to understand oneself and others. In the 19th century, the poetic term “moral imagination” was used for this process.
To imagine is to form a mental image, to think, to believe, to dream, to picture. It is both an idea and an ideal. Our dreams can lead us from small expressions of empathy to a noble vision of equality and justice. Imagination stokes the flame: it connects us to our creativity, our vitality. In a world of growing global conflict, imagination is more important than ever.
“The great instrument of moral good is the imagination,” the poet Percy B. Shelley wrote in his book The Defense of Poetry (1840).
The moral imagination is creative. It helps us find better ways of being. It is a form of empathy that encourages us to be kinder and love ourselves and each other. “Beauty is truth, beauty; this is all we know and all we ought to know,” wrote the poet John Keats. “I am sure of nothing but the sanctity of the affections of the heart and the truth of the imagination.”
Training in the Moral Imagination
We can all do special exercises to develop our moral imagination.
Start reading poetry. Whether you read it online or find a dusty old book at home, Shelley argued that poetry can “awaken and enlarge the mind itself, making it the receptacle of thousands of inscrutable combinations of thought. It is “the surest messenger, companion, and follower of the awakening of great men to a wholesome change of mind.”
Watch movies. Tap into the magic of creativity through film. Relax regularly over an excellent movie to build up your energy — and don’t be afraid it will turn you into a homebody. Writer Ursula Le Guin suggests that although watching a story on the screen is a passive exercise; it still draws us into another world in which we can imagine ourselves for a while.
Let the music move you. Although music can be wordless, it also develops empathy in us. According to a recent study published in Frontiers, “music is a portal into the inner world of others.”
Dance can also foster what is called “kinesthetic empathy. Viewers can inwardly imitate dancers and or model their movements.
Inite & Empathy map
One of Inite’s goals is to monetize ideas. So how does empathy help with this?
Have you ever heard of empathy cards? Many people think they are only valuable for marketing. Still, the ideas that Initers create are also aimed at a target audience, and you need to know your consumer’s portrait to increase monetization.
That’s where the empathy map helps. Empathy maps are the most valuable at the beginning of idea development.
The format of an empathy map
Typically, an empathy map is divided into four sectors that indicate different aspects of the users’ internal experience. The number of industries can vary depending on needs and preferences, but they almost always include:
Thoughts. What the user is thinking, “Is there an example here?” or “I hope this doesn’t take too long.”
Feelings. The user’s emotional state: “I’m confused about the navigation, and I blame myself for it.”
Actions. User behavior, common and triggered by a particular stimulus: “I go back to the home page every time and don’t know where to go next.”
There may also be the following variations:
Attitudes. What the user is paying attention to: “I like the colorful logo.”
Quotes. What the user says. You can use verbatim excerpts from interviews or use existing knowledge.
Influence. What third-party information could influence the user’s actions: “Everyone says this program is easier to use than Photoshop.
You could also add:
Problems (pain points). Any hurdles to look out for: inability to use technology or concentrate for long periods.
Goals (benefits). What the user is trying to achieve: complete a task in 5 minutes.
In addition, you can combine these two sectors by adding a simple statement: “Users should be able to ________ because ________.” Attention should be paid to the second pass because user motivation is a great resource for generating ideas.
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