Understanding Empathy | First Post of Third YearPosted: October 3, 2016
There’s a lot I’d like to write about the beginning of this year but I’ve been given this task to do ASAP so I’ll do this first then maybe have another coffee before I tackle the rest. Today we had a lecture with Neil where he described the meaning of empathy and asked us these questions to answer:
Do I understand, intellectually and emotionally my own feelings, thoughts and motivations?
How mindful you are greatly depends on your state of mind; for example: If I have had enough sleep, and a coffee, maybe meditated and in good physical health I am more likely to understand how I am truly feeling about something. I don’t believe that we discover our emotions over time, I believe that we initially have a natural reaction to something, and after consideration of it we are able to compose reasonable thoughts and possibly a more well-informed change in how we feel about it as well. This ties in nicely to the brief where my topic is health and well-being and I am tackling the importance of mental and physical health and the link between the two.
– and whether or not I care?
(e.g. What do I feel now about this project? Why am I here?)
I think it is really important that everyone is mindful of their own emotional state and how they are acting in their environment. In terms of the project I am aware of the rough outline of the task, the concepts involved and the client’s intentions, however to me the future seems uncertain and I cannot yet see the end product. This is making me sceptical about moving forward. I am here to learn more about graphic design and to make connections with the industry. I care about making this distinction because it helps me to create an honest path forward through the course.
…the feelings, thoughts and motivations of other people – and whether or not I care about them?
(e.g. What might other people feel about the University as it is? Why are they here?)
I like to think I could empathise with everyone and anyone to a certain extent, however I think it is mainly just the people closest to me, in my friendship group, my age group, the ones I socialise with that I can fully empathise with, as these are the people I understand and can empathise with the most. In relation to students within the graphics course I am aware that there is a shared feeling of confusion, and frustration at the tasks.
…how capable I am of embracing, entering into and valuing another person’s feelings, thoughts and motivations – and whether or not I want to?
(e.g. How might I come to see other people’s points-of-view? What might I want to do in response?)
I don’t like to make assersions about how people are thinking or feeling. Empathy often comes after consideration of the other person’s situation and possibly discussing it with them before making lasting judgements. If someone can describe their intentions honestly as redeemable, I think anyone could at least attempt to have a basic level of understanding and empathy.
How do we create design for people who don’t care?
Think about the real-life (real-world) scenario(s) which I’ll share with you this morning.
To create design for people who don’t care we will have to make it in a way that means it cannot be ignored, something eye-catching, positive but startling; causing a memorable reaction in the audience.
How do people actually behave?
In class this morning we were given an example of a man walking through the park, past the many litter bins, and throwing his rubbish on the floor instead. People like this are careless, thoughtless about how their actions are affecting the environment around them.
1a : What do you think is influencing their behaviour – what’s going on in their thoughts?
It is impossible to know exactly what goes on in people’s heads when they do unhealthy things like drop litter on the floor, it would be unfair to assume, or to label them negatively. But we can consider that maybe they have something important on their mind meaning they either didn’t notice or it didn’t seem important in comparison. Maybe they do not wish to contribute to helping keep the environment healthy.
2 : How would I want people to behave?
In an ideal world I would like people to consider their actions, and be aware of their priorities and reasoning. People would take pride in their health and the health of others around them.
3 : Why do I want people to behave in a particular way?
To a certain extent I’d like people to behave in a certain way for the sake of others around them, so that everyone can live in positive, healthy surroundings, where everyone strives to be better, more mindful and open and honest. But it is selfish to expect these things of others, everyone has their own way of living and none is better than another.
4 : How might I learn to empathise with people, in order to create mutually-beneficial design?
To better empathise with people I don’t currently fully understand I could first speak to them, ask them to help me to understand how they experience the world. I could spend a day in their shoes, do the things they do, maybe speak the way they speak. I could spend time listening to the people they have in their lives, take in the opinions of their peers and attempt to see the world the way they do.