Access and Feeds

User Empathy: Great Product Managers Immerse Themselves in the Lives of Their Users

By Dick Weisinger

Product developers and designers with User Empathy are able to visualize and feel how users of the product will experience it. They are able to go beyond just checking off boxes of requirement lists. User Empathy helps them to incorporate the many possible perspectives of end users and identify holistically how they will be able to interact and relate to the product.

Kim Bannerman, program Manager at Google, said that “you can’t really have great engineering and great products for your customers unless you can have the folks that are building those products understand them [end users], truly, and it’s all about walking in their shoes.”

Bannerman identifies three pieces of empathy:

  • Cognitive Empathy – understand where the user is coming from on an intellectual level
  • Compassionate Empathy – understand the emotions of the user
  • Empathetic Concern – understand what you can do to help or support the user

Bannerman said that “until you physically feel what someone else is feeling, you’re not going to have the full cycle of empathy unless you go through all three pieces of empathy.”

User empathy requires that there be total immersion into the lives of the users, an understanding that goes beyond a superficial knowledge of user stats and polls.

Sefi Keller, product manager at, wrote that “User Empathy is more than a fancy slogan. It’s a mindset that paves the way to behavior patterns that lead to better products. If you want to build great products, look to your personal life. Are you a good listener? Can you sense how people feel even when they’re saying something different? Do you truly see people holistically? Improving any of these at your personal life may translate to professional success as well.”

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