Empathy is one of those things that is hard to verbalize and even harder to feel. If sympathy is when you say “I know how you feel” then empathy is when you connect with someone’s pain to not be able to say anything at all. Empathy is hard to gain, requires time, and involves work. You don’t gain empathy by looking onto something in a disconnected manner. You gain empathy by linking with others in real, authentic ways. These connections return enormous gains.
Think of your visitor. You no longer think of them as one monolith. You start to differentiate the mass into individuals. You start to wonder what they would think, not in an abstract way, but in a solvable way. You move from inaction to action.
How do you gain such powers?
Pretty simple. Walk out of your office. Sit where your visitors sit. (Didn’t put a bench there? Well, then you think about sitting where your visitors think about sitting.) Talk to people. Be careful–this is not an evaluation that I am talking about. Don’t take this sample size of a handful as
Talk to people. Be careful–this is not an evaluation that I am talking about. Don’t take this sample size of a handful as an anecdotal study. Just get to know your visitors as people. Let them be actual people rather than abstract numbers.
Then go back to the problems that face you. Think of those people that you have been getting to know. Try to solve these problems for them.
Oh, and ask facilities to put an extra bench in the galleries.