Empathy: Thoughts That Count.

First impressions matter, most people say and many have come to accept it. Why should it? really?. It’s been tried and tested out that our ‘impressions’ are always filled with known and unknown bias. It is like someone who goes to search for an image of a banana on the internet. The search engine turns up all sorts, obscene, rude, vulgar images from the internet database you may have to see, before you come across the actual image you want. Our brain is like that, a database of information collected from any and everywhere knowingly and unknowingly. So when you meet someone or see something, most of the image associated with that thing that you have encountered, your brain throws up and then you begin to make your jugement. Does this really portray who you are or what the thing is, no. This tells me that there is a need for some kind of control. This is why filters exist on the internet search, so you can hone in quickly on what you are searching for. We need to have filters.

 I just finished reading Blink! by Malcom Gladwell and he really did drive home the point. There are only two situations where first impressions matter. One, where the ‘second’ impression validates the first and two, where one has learnt to control the first impression. Basically, our snap judgements/decisions must be controlled and well-informed. This would only come through filters that help us focus on the important things which in turn, form our decisions. The book shows that these filter are built up by experience, it will come easy for some people and not so easy for others. It may not be easy to explain, but one has to have an awareness of this.

As a UX person and citizen of the world, the need to build and use these filters  is necessary. I always have to interact with people both directly and indirectly, if this is an inevitable part of life, I think it makes sense to spend a good deal of time in understanding these people one has to interact with. Also, the more one understands something, the less likely one is, to abuse it. The more one understands the people they are designing for, the less likely to abuse the privilege e.g by designing an unusable for product. I have to make snap decisions lots of times, while designing e.g going for a particular feature over another. I now know that my ‘gut feeling’ is being informed by something I have encountered or experienced in the past. To harness this ‘gut feeling’ I definitely have to do a lot filtering to make sure, that my gut feeling is well informed and objective in the situation.

While I continue on this journey,( because practice makes perfect) I realize that Empathy is one key filter. Empathy helps you to focus when you encounter a human being. On the most basic level, you know this person is just like you. I think this is a quality that UXers cannot afford to skimp on. We’d be lying if we say that our first impressions don’t matter. First impressions are formed by our experiences and environment, this means we can indeed control/change them. We have a choice. We can choose the experiences, we want to be a part of or how we process these experiences if inevitable. This article, “Using Empathic Listening to Collaborate” by Stephen Covey adds salient points. Empathy will go a long way in helping us build on the thoughts that count making us better designers and better human beings.

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One thought on “Empathy: Thoughts That Count.

  1. Pingback: 2012 in review | Tonianni

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