"But most days, if you're aware enough to give yourself a choice, you can choose to look differently at this fat, dead-eyed, over-made-up lady who just screamed at her kid in the checkout line. Maybe she's not usually like this."
I spent all of my 30's working at Radio 1, a radio station aimed at 15-25 year olds. At the time I was working in the media, referring to large coffees as 'Venti' and hanging out in wanky East London. Little has changed to be honest.
When you're producing content for people from a different generation you have to quickly learn how to stop being you. You have to step out of your bubble and become a 15 year old school boy from Derry, an 18 year old MC from Dundee or a 21 year old single mum from Hackney. You have to break out of your default setting.
My eldest son was recently training to be a coach and mentor. I talked to him about the importance of empathy and a little thing I do when I'm on a train in the morning, or in a cafe waiting for someone. I look at the people around and build the stories of their lives based on whatever clues I can grab. It's not enough to form opinions based on the easy clues. You have to look for the hard ones.
Yesterday I came across this. It's a wonderfully visualised version of a commencement speech given by novelist David Foster Wallace. It's a brilliant essay on empathy and living compassionately. Everyone should hear it. If you work with audiences or customers then you have to listen to them. Hearing is not enough. You have to build the story that lies behind the data rather than just acting on the data. You have to understand people and the only way to do that is by listening differently.