The art of listening

10 February 2024
10 February 2024 nishantgathwal@gmail.com

After returning from a four-year hiatus to immerse myself once again in the realm of UX, my curiosity was piqued regarding the evolving landscape of the tech domain. I sought to grasp the changes and acquire knowledge that would enhance my understanding of the field. Notable transformations included advancements in design tools and the introduction of features designed to streamline the entire product cycle, making it more efficient.

As I delved into the intricacies of user research, a timeless wisdom surfaced—the art of listening. This foundational principle, often imparted in our formative years, revealed its significance in the context of UX through insightful YouTube videos. Indi Young’s eloquent presentations on the art of listening resonated as genuinely organic, while Steve Portigal exhibited profound depth and experience in this art.

Summarizing key insights od Indi young (Steve portigal’s are covered in the 2nd part), I offer the following guidelines to assist UX designers, particularly in the crucial aspect of conducting interviews:

Indi Young’s Art of Listening:

1. Pure Listening: Engage in unadulterated listening. Disengage from tendencies such as giving directions, judging, advising, or analyzing, as these detract from genuine listening.

2. Empathic Listening: Cultivate a listener’s role that fosters a sense of being heard. Acknowledge the validity of the speaker’s truth and refrain from judgment while remaining attuned.

3. Beginner’s Mind: Embrace a beginner’s mind marked by curiosity, free from the burden of proving or disproving. Avoid assuming authority, allowing for an open exploration of ideas.

4. Listening Sessions: Follow the user’s lead, even if it diverges from the initially specified topic. The user’s spontaneous thoughts often provide valuable insights.

5. Developing Cognitive Empathy: Grasp the intricacies of the user’s inner thinking, emotional reactions tied to specific events, and the guiding principles influencing decision-making.

6. Miscellaneous Points:

– Avoid deriving insights in real-time.
– Forging meaning during listening introduces bias and assumptions.
– Deep listening transcends the user’s relationship with your organization or solutions.
– Refrain from preoccupying your mind with the next set of questions.

7. Cognitive Activities During Listening

– Pay meticulous attention to the speaker’s words.
– Guide the speaker to specific points in time.
– Probe beyond surface-level responses.

In conclusion, while listening may seem like a ubiquitous daily activity, its significance can be easily overlooked, reduced to a mere formality. In UX research, such habits risk persisting. Therefore, a proactive implementation of the aforementioned principles during listening sessions is crucial for extracting accurate information and, consequently, conducting more effective research.

To be continued…

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