Empathy Resources

Resources I've found useful for building skills related to empathy, effective interpersonal communication, and generally growing love within your organization. Within each section, resources are roughly in the order of how impactful they've been to me. These resources were also the inspiration for my talk "#Hugops in Practice" at DevOpsDays Detroit 2015.

If something you read here is useful, or terrible, or you have another resource to suggest, let me know! And if something here is super useful to you, please share.

Last updated: January 3rd 2016


Non-Violent Communication. Sort of the seminal work (for me) on empathy-driven communication. A philosophy and set of strategies for finding empathy in basically any situation out there. Has many fans in the peacekeeping / conflict mediation world.

Crucial Conversations. More business-focused than NVC— less theory, and more likely to appeal to results-oriented folks. I think the two books complement each other well.

Stalling for Time: My Life as an FBI Hostage Negotiator. A thrilling read on its own, but the main reason I love it is that it takes many of the communication principles above and shows how a master of nonviolent communication permanently changed the FBI’s attitude about the place of empathy in rescuing hostages and defusing violent, high-stakes situations.

Blog Posts

Blameless PostMortems and a Just Culture. Etsy's great overview of how and why they run blameless postmortems. Includes discussion on accountability v. responsibility, learning from failure, and building a sustainable, resilient culture.

A Leader's Framework for Decision-Making. A general overview of the Cynefin framework and its uses for understanding response to complex sitautions.

Understanding Complexity: The Cynefin Framework. Another overview of Cynefin, in slideshare form.

Gizmodo: Apple's Secret Training Manual. Some interesting tidbits in there on how Apple teaches empathy skills to their Genius Bar staff at scale.


A radical experiment in empathy (TEDx). Likely to produce a "whoa" moment if you're having a hard time empathizing with somebody you see as very different than you. Watch it the whole way through.

HOWTO Empathy (Emma Jane Hogbin Westby). A great talk on specific, actionable strategies for learning how to build empathy across your organization.

DevOps: The Missing Pieces (Katherine Daniels). Keynote from DevOpsDays MN 2015. Great discussion of inclusion + devops intersectionality.

The Five Love Languages of DevOps (Matt Stratton). Awesome talk on the first day of DevOpsDays Detroit that covers similar / complementary themes to mine.