Keep Two Thoughts

Personal essays

Empathy - Essay from Newsletter 10

Can we imagine ourselves in other people’s shoes?

Let me go

We were a good half hour into our call and the woman at the other end was still offering me deals that were available to me today if I wouldn’t leave XM.

“Please,” I said, “can you stop for a moment and listen to me. I’ve been trying to end my contract because I don’t want the service any more.”

She told me there were just a few steps and it went on for fifteen more minutes. If I hung up or took one of the other offers she was making then they wouldn’t lose me as a customer.

But they had.

They might keep billing me but they’d lost me as a customer and this only reinforced why I was leaving.

At the end of the further fifteen minutes I begged the woman to stop and try to see things from my side. “How would you feel if you called to cancel a subscription and the person on the other end of the phone did this to you.”

To my surprise - it worked.

It almost never works when you ask someone to put themselves in your shoes. But this time it did.

Our apps

There were three talks on making apps more accessible at AppBuilders this year. Sometimes that happens. You accept talks that are individually good and compelling and then later notice that there are three of them.

They were completely different told from three different perspectives.

They each showed how easy Apple has made it for us to reach people with different needs and limitations. They each showed things to consider that had never occurred to me. They each explained why it makes business sense to take these simple steps.

There are people who don’t make these changes because they just didn’t know. I remember when a member of the Royal National Institute of the Blind first showed me how he interacted with his smooth glass iPhone and it blew me away.

But once you know. Then why aren’t you making these changes?

One of the speakers made the point that if you don’t care about the needs of other people and you don’t want to help them, I don’t know how to make you care.

I don’t either.

I don’t know how to make you care about others.

Maybe the first step is to get you to take these steps to help others whether you care or not.

I don’t know.

Unknown unknowns

David C Logan begins an article in the Journal of Experimental Botany with this:

“In February 2002, Donald Rumsfeld, the then US Secretary of State for Defense, stated at a Defense Department briefing: ‘There are known knowns. There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we do not know we don’t know.”

Things we don’t know we don’t know.

This echoed something [Ishmael Shabazz tweeted]( this morning.

He began with the advice that “the phrase ‘I’m not a racist’ makes you sound like a racist.”

But maybe you’re sure that not only don’t you have biases - the known knowns, you known you don’t even have unconscious biases - the known unknowns.

Ish addresses those who say, “I don’t have unconscious bias.”

“Really?” he responds, “How exactly would you know if you have an unconscious bias?”

He has a follow-up tweet where he looks at analogous issues he may have had with unknown knowns and unknown unknowns.

What happens when someone points out these things to you - like in you app where they showed how hard it was for some segment of the population to use your app. Things that you weren’t doing on purpose and may never have known could ever be an issue.

What happens when they let you know that you are hurting or impeding others?

Ish says, “ I never want to be. If accused of it, I have to admit I don’t really know, apologize, educate myself, and ask how to be better?”

We are currently in a world where so many of those at the top refuse to do any of those. It’s a simple prescription.

Admit I don’t really know.


Educate myself.

Ask how to be better.

Essay from Dim Sum Thinking Newsletter 10. Read the rest of the Newsletter or subscribe

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