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Empathy is the ability to understand another person’s feelings and perspectives, and to use that understanding to guide our actions (Krznaric, Greater Good).

Dr. Brene Brown’s illustrated introduction to empathy and comparison to sympathy (3 min) is a fun and shareable explanation of these ideas. Another definition:

Empathy is feeling WITH people.

Dr. Brene Brown

Dr. Brown is a professor of social work and she spent the past two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy.

The ‘revolutionary’ practice of DevOps was for developers and operators to discuss and learn what is and isn’t working well, then improve it.

Empathy helps us change systems so they are actually better. And this works. With empathy we can change culture and systems in ways that benefit the people who are part of that system, whether those people are builders, operators, users, or stakeholders. Without understanding individuals’ feelings and perspectives, we may work on the wrong problems or introduce changes that make things worse.

Most people are born with the capacity to empathize deeply — it is built into our brains (Mangot). For many reasons we might not have the experiences, practice, or intentional engagement that develops empathy. But you can do that now. Psychologists have studied empathy and shared how to develop and use it for nearly 100 years. High quality resources are available for personal and professional use. Examples include work on building high performance teams (Kasperowski) through psychological safety (Google). My Amazon book search results for ’empathy’ return no less than 4.5 stars on the first page and 20,000 results in total. But we have to learn and then act.

There are many broken systems harming people in our communities right now. Racism and sexism exist, as do other injustices that produce tragic results and stifle humanity. The people affected by that injustice do not have the power to eliminate that harm — or they would!

What the world needs now is empathetic action by those with power.

Please listen, learn, and use your power to tip the scales towards justice for your coworkers, customers, community, country, and the world. Thank you if you’re already doing that.

Action might look like lending your privilege to people with less. Thank you, Anjuan Simmons.

Maybe action looks differently for you. What’s clear is that it’s needed.

I’ll close by sharing the wisdom of Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund:

We always have the possibility to improve the Republic [United States], but the people have to have the will to do it. And the consequences of not doing the work are what we have been seeing. So for anyone who is lamenting what we have been seeing over the past two weeks, ask them how much they have worked to improve this country.

Sherrilyn Ifill, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund

Take care of yourself and others,