I have no idea what it's like to be pregnant.

And for most of us, we have no idea what it's like to have $3 to spend on a day's food, or $4,000,000 to spend on a jet. We have no idea what it feels like to be lost in a big city, no idea how confusing it is to go online for the first time, no idea what it's like to own four houses.

Marketers and pundits and writers and bloggers and bosses pretend they are empathetic, but we never can be. Sure, we can try, we can be open to cues and sensitive to clues, but no, we don't really know.

Being certain about how someone else feels or what motivates them is foolish. Don't declare that you know exactly why someone made a choice or predict what someone is going to do next, and why. It's a great parlor trick, but you're probably going to be wrong. (I think the one universal exception is fear. We all know what it means to be afraid, and fear doesn't change based on income or gender. The causes change, but the fear remains the same.)

Empathy is a hugely powerful marketing tool if we use it gently, being sure to leave lots of room for error. When we say, "oh, you did that to make a quick buck or you did that because you hate that guy or you did that because you're a man…" we've closed the door to actually allowing people to write their own story and you make it difficult to learn what actually makes them tick.