Episode 261: Empathy Everywhere with Michael Ventura


This time around I’m joined by Michael Ventura. Michael is the founder & CEO of Sub Rosa – a strategy and design practice – and the author of Applied Empathy.

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Michael and I talk about why it’s important to know the distinction between sympathy and empathy, what you can do if you want start applying empathy, and why knowing the differences between the types of empathy is important. I really enjoyed my conversation with Michael and I hope you do as well.

Talking Points

  • Michael suggests that finding empathy, let alone applying it, is as elusive as I think it is
  • Michael digs into what empathy is but more importantly… what it isn’t
  • Michael talks about the different types of empathy
  • I ask Michael how someone who is trying to help or advise someone when you’re not able to completely empathize with them because their circumstances are so foreign to you
  • Michael discusses the importance of asking questions and why follow up questions are so critical
  • What is a virtue you need have in your toolkit to help you in applying empathy?
  • When did Michael realize that empathy was something he needed to explore?
  • How important is it for people to learn the language of empathy and apply it regularly?
  • We talk about an easy way to understand the difference between sympathy and empathy
  • How does Michael go about helping organizations foster empathy?
  • How can someone take what Michael teaches and apply it on a personal level?
  • What is a simple step that someone can take to start applying empathy today?

“If you go to a doctor and tell them ‘My knee hurts’ they don’t jump into ‘Well, there’s five different surgeries we could do to fix your knee.’ They’re going to do some x-rays, they’re going to some CAT scans, and what they might find is that you’ve got a bum ankle. And your ankle is going to throw off your knee a lot. So the root cause isn’t going to be the knee. The knee’s just where it’s showing up.”

Michael Ventura

Helpful Links

While understanding and applying empathy may not seem helpful to your personal productivity, once you have a better grasp of empathy it can save you time when looking inward and dealing with others. Understanding and applying empathy can help you stay in touch with your humanity in a world that is driven by getting things done. I’m going to try to more on applying empathy to my work and my life and I encourage you to do the same. And Michael’s book is a great place to start.

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