Harnessing the Power of the Empathy Map


Gather research that will fuel your empathy map. This can be in the form of user interviews, field studies, diary studies, listening sessions or qualitative surveys.

Provide participants with the research ahead of the session. This will allow them to familiarize themselves with the data and prepare for mapping in a group.

1. Empathy is a mindset

The capacity for empathy is a mindset that can be cultivated. A key component of this mindset is the belief that your emotions are not separate from the feelings of others. This can help you recognize when someone is suffering, and it may also inspire you to take action to ease their pain.

Empathy can be divided into different categories, including cognitive, emotional, and somatic empathy. Cognitive empathy allows you to understand another person’s mental state and emotions, such as feeling anxious about an upcoming presentation. Emotional empathy refers to the ability to feel what another person is feeling, such as cringing when they stub their toe. Somatic empathy relates to physical sensations, such as the experience of pain or pleasure.

Once you’ve gathered the necessary research, you can begin to create your empathy map. Begin by handing out sticky notes to each team member and asking them to fill in the four quadrants of the map: Thoughts, Feelings, Actions, and Observations. When the team is done, cluster similar stickies together and discuss their findings. Identify outliers and areas for further research.

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2. Empathy is a skill

Empathy isn’t just a trait; it is also a skill that can be learned and strengthened, like any other technical skill. Start small by taking an active approach to learning how to better empathize with others. Try asking for feedback on your empathy from a trusted colleague or mentor. Be sure to consider their input, rather than getting defensive or pushing back.

Practice cognitive empathy by actively listening to your coworkers and observing their body language. You can also learn to better empathize by reading fiction with diverse characters or watching movies and TV shows that feature characters from different cultures.

If you are using an empathy map in your design process, make sure that all team members have access to the research and data that will fuel your mapping session. After everyone has read through the data, you can cluster notes together that communicate similar ideas to help your team reach a shared understanding of their users.

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3. Empathy is a habit

Empathy is an important habit to develop because it can be challenging to step into someone else’s shoes. But if you make empathy a part of your daily routine, it will help you better understand others and their underlying motives and aspirations. It also encourages you to enter conversations with strangers, like those random chitchats you might strike up with a person in line at the grocery store.

When you create an empathy map, you start by identifying your principal user persona in the center of the diagram. This is the person you’ll analyze during your research sessions with users, examining their thoughts and feelings throughout product interaction. You can collect data via interviews, use your website’s analytics or even survey customers to get insights into their thoughts and emotions regarding your product. You can then collate all of this information on a whiteboard or in a graphic program, such as Miro. This allows teams to quickly find any gaps in their understanding and develop targeted strategies.

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4. Empathy is a culture

Empathy is a culture when it’s practiced regularly in a company. Leadership needs to model it and encourage employees to use it. This includes highlighting the value of empathy in messaging and recognition.

It’s also crucial to include empathy as an aspirational value and reinforce it through employee communications and rewards. This helps people see that it’s a common goal for the entire organization.

An empathy map is a visual tool that shows how your customers feel about a product or service. It typically consists of four different sections: Says, Thinks, Does and Feels.

It can be a precursor to creating personas or journey maps for your audience. It’s best used during the Understand/Observe phase of the design thinking process. It can be a powerful tool when combined with qualitative research, including interviews and surveys. This is especially true if you’re working with multiple teams and audiences. Empathy maps can be created using any whiteboard software, like Miro, MURAL or Figjam.

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