Empathy Mapping

A tool to dive into a person’s experience through what they are saying, doing, thinking and feeling

By encouraging teams to explore what people say, do, think and feel - Empathy Mapping connects us more deeply to the individuals or communities we are developing solutions for.

This is a great activity to do when launching a new endeavor to get out of your head and into the experiences of your stakeholders, or for finding patterns across many interviews and observations in order to spur creative thinking.  Alternatively, this can also be used as a way to foster an empathetic connection between teammates, community partners, or mentor/mentee relationships.


How to Practice:

Try creating an Empathy Map on yourself or someone you already know to get a feel for it.  Begin with saying and doing as those are more obvious, then move over to the more invisible topics of thinking and feeling. These last two may feel like you have to make some leaps of faith to complete if you are completing it about other people, and that is ok for now.

When complete, read each quadrant and note any interesting pattern you see or any things that seem to contradict each other.  What insight can you gain from this?


Apply it to your Project:

Connect with your team to agree on who they would like to try to better understand and empathize with. Have them prepare by gathering any existing research, notes, etc. on your target audience.



Have any existing research notes you have on hand and ideally recently reviewed before the session. Determine if you want to use a digital tool, a printed paper tool, or even a white board.  Show the 4 quadrants you will be completing.

As a team, use the Empathy Mapping to chart out what your target audience or individual Says, Does, Thinks and Feels within the context of a specific situation or experience (e.g., Patients who are on Medicare trying to obtain services to address a chronic health need, or New Employees trying to sign up for internal mentoring programs.)

Take some time to talk through the map, section-by-section.  We find it best to begin with Saying and Doing as those are more obvious, and then move into more complex topics of Thinking and Feeling where you will have to take some leaps of faith. Encourage the team to step into the proverbial shoes of this target audience or particular person. Try to include quotes, images or brief stories if you have them.

Step back and look across the entire map and audience's holistic experience. Discuss patterns, surprises, even contradictions.

An example of a contradiction:  a person Saying “getting this appointment time is a really urgent issue for me” but when we observe what they are Doing, we see that they are not taking earlier appointments if a loved one can’t go. Reflection- this example may tell us something about their level of trust in the organization providing the service, or perhaps in their discomfort in being alone to receive or interpret what is occurring.


Determine how to proceed as a team. Consider if more time is needed to further refine the map, or if it's in a good place to share with others to begin collecting outside input. If the team feels strongly about the maps final state, consider creating Problem Statements, or doing a Pair and Share to discuss your thoughts,  or even Conducting a Brainstorm to begin generating ideas.

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