On the Other Side of the Platform: A Practice in Empathy

Ana Zaldarriaga
Ana Zaldarriaga
Feeling frustrated on your train ride? Ever wonder what the person in front of you is feeling? Ana starts to wonder about this and more on a morning journey in the subway.
On a regular NYC MTA commute to work, I made a simple observation that affected my general outlook. It started with my entering the train station from an opposite entrance, which put me at the front of the train instead of the back. I still had to make my way through the platform four people deep and waiting for the highly anticipated next train to arrive. Yet coming in from another side allowed me to see something outside my usual perspective of just another sardine in the can: I had the chance to see the conductor’s face as he pulled into the station.
Every morning when the train arrives, I, along with all the commuters, hold our breath to see if the train will be packed. But when I saw the conductor’s expression that morning, I started to wonder what he felt when he saw the crowds of people, all of us, with our expectation, disappointment, anxiety, etc. And what about the people in the train who were looking out at us, wondering how to start strategizing their exit past the throngs blocking the door.
By just changing my walking direction, i remembered how we all stand from different viewpoints at every moment of the day. On the platform. In the train. In the driver’s seat. Hugging a pole. As a straphanger. Balancing with no hands. And how we have been in all of those positions throughout the day, and our lives.

Empathy is now a 21st Century skill taught in schools, studied at universities and incorporated in businesses. So I decided to challenge myself to a daily morning practice in empathy. Instead of just a mental exercise in imagining how another person feels on that train, I can make my commute a physical exercise where I can actually experience what it is like to be in each different space of that journey. By looking back before looking forward, and looking at something at 45 degrees instead of head on, 2-d versus 3-d, and nowadays even 4-d, I’m sure it will impact me differently every day, but the first move is just to get on the other side of the platform.

For more on Viewpoints, check out this resource at  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Here’s a quick TED video from Brene Brown on Empathy

How can you practice empathy in your daily life? Share below...

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Ana Zaldarriaga

By Ana Zaldarriaga

Ana Zaldarriaga Pronouns: she/her/hers Sr. Dir. of Employee Development The Leadership Program 535 8th Avenue, Floor 16 New York City, NY 10018 Phone: 212.625.8001 Fax: 212.625.8020 tlpnyc.com “…building strong leaders in classrooms and communities."