What we do as UXers is similar to the work of a therapist in that we:
- Listen to people’s ideas and provide thoughtful responses
- Tackle complex problems by analyzing them and helping people to come up with solutions
- Sometimes deal with difficult people and situations
As a psychotherapist turned user researcher, I found that there were many similarities in the work that we do. Here are some best practices from therapy that you can apply to your work in UX:
- Create a holding environment
People need to feel comfortable in order to open up and share their ideas. Your job is to set them at ease. Creating a holding environment includes framing the interaction (introduction, agenda, wrap up) as well as providing a pleasant setting (this includes room temperature, water, and ask if they need anything). Note: People need an escape route. Don’t sit between them and the door.
- Connect first
If people don’t have a good first experience, they aren’t coming back, no matter how skilled you are. Connect first. Focus on what need and their experience rather than what need from them.
- Make the covert, overt
People say things without really saying them. They do this with their body language and hints in what they say or do. Unless brought to the surface, the behavior of disgruntled team members can fester and affect the entire team. By making the covert, overt, you can ask them directly for their thoughts on the project. Similar to therapy, it’s better to get the disagreements out on the table so that you can address them directly.
- Get calm
Sometimes as a UXer, your job is to manage tense situations. After all, you are agents of change and change can be difficult for people. We all have mirror neurons that reflect off of each other’s emotions. You can use this to your advantage. When you get calm, you can help calm your team.
- Treat the root cause
How do you know when you are just treating symptoms rather than the root cause? Easy, the problem keeps cropping up. Providing a redesigned website to an organization and walking away would be treating a symptom (e.g. a poorly designed site). Working with the organization to become user-centered addresses the root cause that led to a poorly designed site in the first place.
Finally, increase awareness. A lot of therapy is increasing awareness, both of yourself and others.