Why Situational Empathy Is a Challenge for IT Pros

The difficulty of IT pros to connect on an interpersonal level and have a meaningful, relevant work-related discussion from a business person’s perspective is a core problem.

IT pros

A Situational-Empathy Curriculum for IT Pros

There is one obvious, accessible prescription for building greater situational empathy: read great literature! One of the hallmarks of great literature is its ability to put the reader into the hearts and minds of other people, and over time, this builds the reader’s situational empathy (and enjoy a really great book at the same time).

Granted, this is a long-term investment and process. It’s not like a systems architect will read War and Peace over the next two weeks and turn into a different kind of person. But over the course of a couple of years, and a number of great works of literature, the change will take hold.

This change is both conscious and unconscious, and it occurs as the reader spends more time and mental bandwidth thinking about the needs, wants, desires and motivations of the characters of great literature. This change won’t work along a fixed schedule, and it’s hard to predict how it will manifest in a business meeting, but it’ll be there in one way or another.

And the best part of all? It doesn't cost a penny.

So, where to get started? There are hundreds of great classical works of literature to pick from. Far be it for me to say which one is best, but here are three of my favorites. (And if none of these appeal to you, consult the TIME ALL-TIME 100 Novels list. There’s something there for everyone.)

My recommendations:

  • Anna Karenina: Because it helps to identify with people who do things that most of us would never do.
  • The Moon and Sixpence: Because achieving great things doesn’t always bring the expected satisfaction and recognition.
  • The Great Gatsby: Because everyone is striving for something.

Enjoy these novels—and let me know how it goes.

About the Author

Marc J. Schiller has spent more than two decades teaching IT strategy and leadership to the world’s top companies. Through online courses, speaking engagements and corporate consulting, his company Rain Partners nurtures, educates and develops IT pros at all levels how to be more effective, influential and successful in their IT careers. Click here for a free digital copy of his acclaimed book—The 11 Secrets of Highly Influential Leaders.

To read his previous CIO Insight article, "Is the CDO a Real Threat to the CIO's Role?", click here.

This article was originally published on 10-13-2014
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