Attended a Design Thinking workshop today. One small conversation there was stuck in my mind. Instructor was talking about empathy. He asked someone that suppose the person sitting next to him got injured on the leg, how he would show empathy. I called out a response - “I feel your pain”. Instructor said that is not possible – no one can feel other’s pain. It seems in some BPO firms it has even been instructed not to tell customers that “I understand how you are feeling”, because it is not possible. Not sure of it though.
This reminded me of something I read about Aaron Swartz, inventor of RSS (Real Simple Syndication – format behind web feeds that was game changing), involved in Creative Commons and founder of Reddit, the front page of Internet. Not to bring up the case of yet another tortured genius. But I had read this about him – ““He had a tremendous and in some ways pathological capacity for compassion.” And in another place “Swartz touched so many because he possessed "a staggering capacity for empathy, sometimes a crippling capacity"”. I feel it is possible to physically feel bad about someone else’s suffering. But I guess too much capacity for empathy would render it impossible to continue, one should be able to ignore a lot.