In our day to day work, we’re always looking to get better right? Most everyone wants to do their best, and wants their best to be good, really good. The hard part about UX is that there is this unknown skill, a gut feel that needs to be developed. Of course there is our usual tool kit that we can use to produce good, even great work. But how can we take ourselves to the next level? How can we become one of those UXers that we look up to? That just get the non-physical/emotional/empathetic part of this work… how can we start to be more like them? Well, one part of the answer is simple… work to be a better communicator.
Now I know what you’re thinking… “What? A better communicator? What does that have to do with anything? This girl is crazy! I need to do some soul searching, there has to be an app for this! Or at least there is some methodology in a UX book that I can follow”. Well, all this might be true, but one way that I believe you can reach that next level is to look at the way you communicate with others, and look to improve it.
So, what makes a great communicator? A great communicator, whether they are just in conversation or presenting or somewhere in between, level sets with their audience. They try to understand where that audience is at, realize and respect that the other party has an opinion or train of thought and moves from there. They don’t try to force their opinion or thoughts onto others, but instead use the audience’s own points of view to prove their points. Great communicators don’t talk over others and don’t find the need to talk over others. In fact, if they talk over someone, they might miss an insight into the other person’s mindset, and that mindset is the most important factor to use to get one’s point across. Think about the best presenters that you’ve seen… what did they do differently, why were their presentations so good? I would be willing to bet that one factor is that their talks felt personal, like they were meant for you, and were almost aimed at you directly. This, dear reader, is taking the audience (user) and their mindset into account. Thus, the person being communicated to internalizes the message, owns it, and moves forward with it.
How does one become a better communicator? First I would write down the names of all those people that you think are good at communicating and begin to observe them in the act. Note what they do and why, what works for them and what doesn’t and begin to fold this into your communication style. Listen to your audience, really listen. Don’t just try to win an argument or debate, or just try to express your point and expect the other person(people) to get it. They aren’t you. They are different people with thoughts, opinions, backgrounds, all of which you should be noting. Use those thoughts, opinions, backgrounds to your advantage… have empathy! Put yourself in their shoes, really do it. Let go of your ego and do this for your audience… that is what makes a great UXer afterall.
What does this have to do with UX Design? Everything. If you can communicate your message effectively, then you can communicate a design or experience effectively. Everything I’ve talked about above is in the world of having empathy for the user. Great communicators do this, as do great UXers. By letting go of our egos in our conversations, presentations, etc we can do so in our designs and experiences. We can design things for others not just because it’s new, cool, looks good on the screen, the UX book told us to, but because we can feel in our gut that this is right, we have become the user for a moment and understand where they might be at. We have a good idea of what is best for them, and this only can come from true empathy. So strengthen your empathetic side, become a really great communicator and see how your UX work benefits, and it will… I promise.