TITLE: Developing Empathy
AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford
DATE: June 23, 2005 6:28 PM
DESC: Having to be a manager helps me to understand how hard the job must be for people who have to manage me...
One thing I have noticed in my last few weeks preparing
move into the Big Office Downstairs:
I view the actions of the administrators around me in a
different light. Where I might have reacted immediately
to some behavior, often negatively, I now am a bit more
circumspect. What could make that seem the right thing
to do? If nothing else, I am aware that I will soon be
in the position of having to make such decisions, and
it probably looks easier to do than it is. Kind of like
from the comfort of your own home... even
is an easy mark when you're sitting on your sofa.
Swapping roles is a great way to develop empathy for
others. This is certainly true for students and teachers.
I do't know how many students who, after having to teach
a short course at work or having to lecture in place of
a traveling advisor, have told me, "I never knew how hard
your job was!" Those students tend to treat their own
instructors differently thereafter.
Playing many different roles on a software team can serve
a similar purpose. Developers who have tested or documented
software often appreciate the difficulties of those jobs
more than "pure" developers. Of course, playing different
roles can help software people do more than develop empathy
for their teammates; it can help them build skills that help
them do all the jobs better. Writing and testing code come
to my mind first in this regard.
Empathy is a good trait to have. I hope to have more of it
-- and put it to good use -- as a result of my new experience.