No empathy without scenic competence. We do not feel into another being nor is our feeling a kind of sense aimed to perceive the emotional situation of another being. Empathy is a skill; we learn it in our life. We understand another’s (persons or groups) feelings (emotion, perception, needs, thoughts, motives …) by our learned ability to reproduce a scene in which the others are situated and acting. Empathy is a creative skill. With it we re-enact the scene of others and by doing so we can reproduce the inner experiences of another being. So, it is not without reason that one of the sources of the empathy concept is a way of understanding art. It was transferred into a psychological concept by Theodor Lipps.

To understand how to learn the empathetic skillset we have to differentiate between the scenic empathy, recognizing in what emotional loaded scene another is perceiving and acting on one hand and on the other the intrapsychic empathy, to react with our own feeling to our cognitive scenic understanding.

For a better scenic understanding and with that scenic empathy it is immensely helpful to look into the sociometric, psychodramatic concept of a role swap by J.L. Moreno and the theory of the humanistic psychodrama. In a proverb of native Americans, it is described as:

»Do not judge about someone if you have not a moon long walked in his/her moccasins.«

Scenic understanding is learnable, learnable even in a training. With the important second part of empathy, the intrapsychic empathy its different. Still, it is learnable, but not in a classical leadership training put into a 45 min timeframe. You may in a cognitive way understand the scene of others, but to have an empathetic moment you need your own inner reference, similar own experience. For that you need to have a full, in experiences rich life. A good leadership session may give you some new and touching experiences, but it can not be the substitute for a fully lived life – one of the reason why we look different into a curriculum vitae, asking for an experience full and very vivid lived live.

Rüdiger Müngersdorff