IT Best Practices

Why Situational Empathy Is a Challenge for IT Pros

Read any good books lately? If you have, it might make you a better communicator with your business colleagues. Mark Schiller writing for CIO Insight offers the explanation behind IT pros’ notorious lack of communication skills. Additionally, Schiller discusses how the ‘reading solution’ that works for MBAs with liberal arts backgrounds can work just as well for IT.

Talking Terabytes Again

The most common complaint businesses have about their IT people boils down to one thing – the inability to connect on an interpersonal level. As an IT professional, do you find yourself caught up in the particulars of your job? Do you go on tangents about technical specifics in a business meeting? Do you notice listeners' eyes drooping or their brows wrinkling in confusion or consternation?

Situational Empathy

You’re not alone. Schiller refers to this social shortcoming as situational empathy. Don’t worry, it doesn’t mean you have no feelings for other people. It simply denotes a lack of ‘putting oneself in another’s shoes’ ability. Many people suffer from this personality deficit. In effect, the prevalence of situational empathy in the IT sector may be attributed to the many hours of school time spent relating to math problems, algorithms, and glowing monitors instead of people.

Anna Karenina? Anyone?

 The lack of this deficit in marketing professionals may similarly be attributed to their liberal arts degrees. Their classes were full of book assignments that forced them to think from the perspective of others. The solution for IT pros is clear. Read more books that involve complex characters and multiple points of view. You may not notice any difference at first, but over time your interactions with the business line will certainly take on a whole new character:

[The] 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.

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