From Having Empathy to Realizing Empathy


We, as leaders, are often driven to help. This is usually fueled by compassion, as we feel responsible for taking care of the well-being of others in our organization. But if our form of help involves problem solving, this can sometimes not only inadvertently push them away and elicit their resistance, but also make the situation worse. Maybe while being accused of lacking empathy, no less! That is, until we go from merely having empathy to realizing empathy.

intended audience
  1. Leaders with an educational background heavily focused on problem-solving (i.e. engineering, medicine, business, etc.)
  2. Leaders who tend to want to solve problems quickly.
  3. Leaders who have found that most problems in their lives revolve around other people. (i.e. co-founders, employees, investors, vendors, etc)
questions addressed
  1. Why do people resist my well-intended problem-solving?
  2. Why do people accuse my behavior of lacking empathy when it arises out of compassion?
  3. How do compassion and empathy differ?
  4. Can we ever empathize too much?
  1. How does realizing empathy differ from having empathy?
  2. How can realizing empathy succeed in cases where problem solving fails?
  3. What makes realizing empathy so difficult sometimes?
  4. What can we do to make progress when realizing empathy is difficult?

Downloadable Edition

usd 9
included files
  • Audio (MP3, M4B)
  • Video Slides (MP4)
  • Worksheet (PDF)

Oct. 2019


Seung Chan Lim


1 hour 3 min



Empathizing points to B. an experience, where we’re feeling as if we’re connected or at one with an “other,” as opposed to A. disconnected or at odds with them.
Hyper-Empathizing points to B′. an experience, where we’re feeling as if there is no or cannot be any distinction or boundary between ourselves and an “other.”
Empathy is a word invented to explain our potential to move from A. to B. or B′.
We realize empathy when we empathize with someone or something we previously could not, while experiencing a moment of realization, where we go “Ah ha!” “Ah...” or “Ha ha ha!” concerning something we either did not or had incorrectly assumed to understand or appreciate fully.

Video Vignettes

going beyond human-centeredness

Before I started my research in art school, I had prided myself as the expert in empathy. This was a byproduct of belonging to a movement called human-centered design. Upon completing my research in 2012 and having gone through a profound transformation in perspective, I came to recognize how arrogant I had been.

(re)defining empathy

Upon publishing my first book in 2013, I received feedback through an international tour. I then quickly realized that my work was not over. Because during the tour, I saw how easily my work was being misunderstood and how much difficulty some people had digesting my work. To improve upon my work, I decided to simplify significantly. The first step, was to return to the basics of what empathy is.