Watch the video: Empathy & Subjectivity in Planning

A happiness lens should make us consider other people’s feelings, and perhaps also to some extent feel as they feel about things. To often, people confuse ’empathy’ with commiserative sympathy. Kindly and helpful though sympathy may often be, in this video (from our Futurelearn-hosted Social Wellbeing MOOC) I argue that empathy can and should be ‘appreciative’, i.e. learning from people’s joys not just from their sufferings. We also note that showing respect for various stakeholders’ subjective viewpoints doesn’t mean naively accepting people’s subjective perceptions of their wellbeing or of the causes of wellbeing.

I also note that empathy, and respect for other people’s subjective viewpoints, is more encouraged in some roles and professions than others. Empathy is encouraged and cultivated among one-to-one carers such as nurses and childminders, and among life coaches and talk therapists, whereas it is actively discouraged among soldiers, lawyers, and surgeons.

  • Can you give examples of how organisations have effectively taken account of the thoughts and feelings of their stakeholders?
  • How could your employer take into account the feelings of the most junior employees?