Community & Government, Wellness

Working With Others

Pharrell Williams explores the ways he applies empathy to his creative process and his collaborations with other artists, while Robert Reffkin discusses how empathetic leadership can foster a more successful workplace.

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Topics include: Curiosity and Creativity · Empathy in the Studio · Collaborating With Others · Creating a Compassionate Culture · Leading With Empathy · Empathize With Your Customers


[DRAMATIC MUSIC] ROBERT REFFKIN: I wanted to start a company where I could build something with others for others. And in order to do that, you have to have empathy. You have to know how others are feeling. PHARRELL WILLIAMS: Usually when I'm making music, then anything that I do design-wise, it has to do with creativity. There's a lot of participants. And so when you're like talking to people, it's really important to try to understand where they are all coming from. It doesn't work without empathy. [DRAMATIC MUSIC] When I was young, I think my imagination would just-- was number one. It's what I couldn't help. It's the way my mind was wired. And so as much as I dreamed and fantasized about being able to do all kinds of things that my situation at the time and my environment couldn't provide, that kept me going. But then when I finally got to a place where I could do something, when I was empowered to do something, to use my creativity as an outlet and to channel all that wild, weird energy, odd-like energy of just thinking about things differently and executing things differently, that's when I began to realize that there was so much more going on in the world, and there was so much more going on in society that I had seen all along. But my mind had been conditioned to see it one way. Curiosity is the vehicle that gets you to a place of empathy. That's when you realize, like, there's just so many others and not just you. You got to start thinking about others. And that's when you can start asking questions about other people and what their experiences might be and how you might be able to help if they need help. I just personally think the day that you stop being curious, the day that you put a lid on your curiosity is the day that you die. The universe doesn't stop. So why should my curiosity? [DRAMATIC MUSIC] Curiosity and empathy are like the tools that I use when I'm working in the studio. There's conversation that prompts your mind ticking and thinking about things, your gears turning. Being curious enough to empathize where someone else is coming from is what allows me to, like, write a song for them or with them. I've got to get on their page. I have to connect. When I write for other people, I channel their energy. I channel what it is that they're trying to, like, communicate or what I think that they would sound interesting communicating. The process begins for me when I think of the person, when I know I'm due to work with them. There's a connotation that they already have. And that's where I do the math. OK, if I add this to that, that could be interesting and new. If I take this part out and just work with what's left, that could be interesting and new. And sometimes it's even more dialed in, like this vocal tone that is deep, that we know them for, would it be interesting to hear them sing in a different register? Or this person is known for singing high. Man, what does this s...

About the Instructor

For the first time ever on MasterClass, a diverse range of our instructors come together to talk about the power of empathy and how it can transform the way you view the world. Join Pharrell Williams, Robin Arzón, Roxane Gay, Walter Mosley, Robert Reffkin, Gloria Steinem, and Cornel West as they share their experiences with empathy and its importance in their lives and careers. Learn how to exercise, cultivate, and promote empathy to connect with others on a deeper, more human level.

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Pharrell Williams, Robin Arzón, Roxane Gay, Walter Mosley, Robert Reffkin, Gloria Steinem, and Cornel West

Pharrell Williams, Robin Arzón, Roxane Gay, Walter Mosley, Robert Reffkin, Gloria Steinem, and Cornel West teach about leading life with empathy.

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