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- Turing Gear Up Pre-Work
- Earl Stephens
- Cohort 1810BE
- September 14, 2018
- One role that empathy has played in my life is to help me with interpersonal relationships with those close to me. For example, empathy helps me to understand what my fiancé feels and is going through when he is having a bad day.
- Empathy helps build better software by allowing for a broad viewpoint of the problem and possible solutions. For example, the software to be written should solve the problem of what is 2 + 2? Several team members will propose equations to be programmed such as 2 + 2, 2 + 0, 4 – 2, and so on. Empathy helps to understand the different viewpoints that led to those various equations. In turn, that may lead to the team using the code/viewpoint that leads to the best solution, instead of the “popular” solution.
- Building software is a collaborative effort. It takes teamwork to design and write the code. The teamwork is only effective if the team members are able to work together and come to agreements. Empathy is the tool that allows the team members to effectively work together. Empathy is the tool that allows each member to gain an understanding of what the other team members are saying or explaining. This allows for a broader understanding of how the problem can be approached. In some cases, this is called “reading between the lines”. A colleagues’ silence when presented with a new idea can be interpreted as indifference, introspection/deep thought, or dismissal of the idea. Empathy can help better interpret the silence. Realizing that the person is highly introverted and shy can lead to the realization that his silence is due to introspection on the idea. With that knowledge, the team can then ask more pointed questions or wait on a decision until the introvert has had time to formulate an answer.
- A recent situation in which empathy was helpful occurred when a teammate arrived on the job site after having been away for a few weeks. There was a significant amount of detailed information to turn over to him. This teammate, who we’ll call Rich, was becoming a bit overwhelmed with all of the information. I could tell by his body language that it was too much to take in at one time. I had to step in when a colleague began adding even more details. I told the colleague to start with just the basic facts so that Rich would have a better foundation of understanding before we added in the minute details. Rich appreciated this and thanked me for understanding that he needed more time to let the information be absorbed.
- I find it most difficult to be empathic in situations in which the other person has closed themselves off from any interaction other than their own inputs. For example, someone who domineers a conversation and steers the conversation towards their own ideas. It is very difficult for me to be empathic in these cases. I have not found a good way to get through to these people. Having said that, one thing I have learned from these situations is a better awareness of when I am domineering the conversation, so that I can then take a step back.
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