Empathy training is an activity, simulation or process that allows participants to experience the needs, problems and perspective of others. This is done to remove a gap in understanding the needs of customers, communities, partners or internal teams. The following are illustrative examples of empathy training.
A simulation whereby customer service representatives act as a customer who has to achieve a set of goals. This may be rigged with problems and poor customer service practices that make the process frustrating and fruitless to build empathy for the customer's perspective.
Exercises that help designers to understand the needs of customers or users. For example, a baby stroller design team that simulates using a stroller on a busy, narrow street filled with obstacles in the rain while carrying school bags and a bag of groceries.
Simulating various non-specific disabilities to help professionals such as architects, urban designers and product designers appreciate the needs of disabled people. For example, an exercise where participants accomplish common tasks without using their arms or legs.
Simulating various technological environments. For example, software developers in California who are accustomed to high bandwidth and low latency who spend a day working in an environment with an extremely slow and unreliable internet connection that is typical of many parts of the world.
Projects & Processes
Empathy training can be used to increase cooperation between partners or internal teams. For example, a simulated project where business and information technology teams switch roles.
Programs that help government and non-profit employees understand and internalize the needs of the public. For example, a program that has police officers do a week of on-the-job training with social services that deal with community issues such as poverty, dementia and mental illness. This may help officers to identity people who are in distress and to empathize with their situation.
Exercises design to build teacher empathy for students or vice versa. For example, exercises that help teachers to feel how common bullying scenarios feel.
Safety training that looks at the human impact of high risk behaviors. For example, a mandatory video that is shown to people renewing their drivers license that features people who have been injured or lost family members to various types of dangerous driving habits.
Training that illustrates communication problems. For example, pilots that listen to the communications handled by air traffic control who are asked to transcribe what is said. This may create empathy for the job of air traffic controllers and their need for clear communications from aircraft crews.