Robin Williams Provides Lesson in Empathy

I’m a huge fan of Robin Williams’ work. He was a brilliant artist who unfortunately lost his battle with internal demons.

I remember many scenes from his movies and TV appearances, but nothing is more vivid to me than one of his discussions with Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting. Williams plays a psychologist who is trying to help a brilliant, yet troubled inner-city Boston kid (WIll Hunting played by Matt Damon). In this scene on a bench in the Boston Public Garden, Williams is explaining to Damon the difference between intellectual knowledge and emotional understanding.

Here’s an excerpt from the beginning….

“So if I asked you about art, you’d probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life’s work, political aspirations, him and the Pope, sexual orientation, the whole works, right? But I’ll bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You’ve never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling. Seen that…”

The scene provides a parallel commentary on the difference between analytics and empathy.

The bottom line: RIP Robin Williams. May the spark you brought to our lives continue to live on.

About Bruce Temkin, CCXP
I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers. I am also the co-founder and Emeritus Chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

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