the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
Empathy is not specific information, nor a type of information.
Instead, it is a channel of information.
It both holds and transmits information, but the main distinction of
“empathy” is that it attributes relevance to the information.
As seen by one party, the relevance is about understanding how
experience is interpreted by the other party.
The understanding must be current. However, current does NOT mean
based in the real-time of direct interaction. Instead, it means up-to-
1. be entitled or appointed to act or speak for (someone),
2. to serve to express, designate, stand for, or denote
Empathy, by definition, always presumes to respect the other party’s
Along with that, there is a goal of having fidelity to the other party’s sense of
But the value of empathy is not in some special enhanced truthfulness of
Instead, it is in how reliable its information is as representation.
A fundamental of the “practice” of empathy is to apply the interpretive
method used by the other party, for the same reason that they do, to the
same circumstantial stimuli.
This application may or may not be through direct engagement with the
other party. But the outcome is a re-presentation of their experience.
Value of Empathy in practice
Although “User-centricity” is the rallying call for Empathy, the importance of
practicing empathy is mainly in the desire to “solve the right problem”
instead of wasting time, resources and credibility solving the wrong problem.
The general value proposition is that empathy will inform what is “right” in a
way that is superior to other approaches.
It is hard to argue against empathy’s logic: if needs are better understood,
then responding to them can clearly feature a better use of opportunity and
But this “user-centricity” actually includes the common reality that many
problems require solutions more sophisticated than their customers are.
And, stating the obvious, the point of being a Solver is that the other party
wants to be, have, or get something that they cannot already provide
themselves. As part of that, they want to be comfortable with, or at least
about, the provider.
1. (of two things) able to exist or occur together without conflict.
Value of Empathy in Provider practice
The reality of User-centricity is that sometimes solvers start out
knowing more about what is “better” than the customer does.
And sometimes it means that what solvers themselves find worth doing
is not going to be accepted by users in any case.
Nonetheless, the key value proposition is that understanding is going
to be better with empathy than it will be without.
That expectation is regardless of whether or not the consequence of
understanding is the subject’s approval.
Where approval is a requirement, it is all the more helpful that the
solver in practice becomes compatible with the user.
1. identify the nature of (a problem) by examination of the symptoms.
The Empathy Function
As an information channel for Solvers, what Empathy desirably does is
to increase the amount of relevant data made available.
Relevance means that the data is associated with something
Empathy intends to help discover meaningful information.
“Solving” means employing something that provides a way for the
discovery to become a useful understanding.
The target “understanding” is an experience: namely, the other party’s
existing sense of what requirements should be met.
In that way, invoking experience is an ambition of empathy, but
empathy’s practical objective is to represent experience in a way that
empowers response as a provider.
1. develop or present (a theory, policy, or system) in detail.
The Empathy Model
Modelling experience provides a way to interpret the relevance of
The use of a model elaborates how the subject party came to its own
existing sense of requirements. In that use, the model also acts as a
guide for what information to seek.
The information obtained makes the model descriptive, not just
prescriptive; but it also tests the ability of the model to “generate” (re-
present) experience that, in comparisons, the other party agrees is like
Meanwhile, it may become evident, to a Solver who has knowledge
above and beyond that experience, that a “solution” should include,
surpass, or exclude the other party’s current disposition, not just
conform to it.
Main elements and assumptions of the Model
• Circumstantial condition
• Circumstances include culture, environment, authorities, goals, or other compelling
• Prioritized objective
• This includes acts, events or future states that must be realized in order to satisfy the
• Context-sensitive tolerances
• These include evident risks, impacts and trade-offs that have the appearance of
being necessary to accept because of the prioritized need
• Constrained options
• These are the abilities possible and available for current actors to apply in context
1. add to (something) in a way that enhances or improves it.
Getting to Outcomes
Empathy clearly involves discovering the other party, understanding that party’s
sense of self, and identifying how that sense shapes their grasp of needs and
In practice, that recognition occurs through exposure and modelled interpretation.
But with that, a Solver and a subject (client) do not assume each other’s identities
or personas. They are, instead, complementary.
Finally, for solution providers, the primary objective and critical differentiation of
practical empathy is to create conditions of knowledgeable trust, such that
confidence in action is mutual.
The pathway to that trust, conveying interpretation, is co-operative
Co-operative communication is then, for the provider, the dimension of empathy in
which solutions are developed and delivered.