I've heard it said, "To learn a new truth read an old book." Today I want to tell you about an essential conversational skill that I learned from an out-of-print book that I absorbed many years ago. What I learned positively impacts my design leadership work to this day.
The skill described in this book is a proven game-changer for me as I face the predictable challenges that occur in leading groups of people on the journey of product and solution design. It also measurably improves my ability to connect with people in my personal life.
Anyone can learn this skill. Mastering it is a lifelong and worthy pursuit. It provides a clearer understanding of issues and what to do about them. As a result, design conversations stay on track when issues occur. They get identified with greater understanding...and they get resolved.
If you want more confidence in how to handle issues when they occur, the life skill taught in an out-of-print book, and that I introduce in this video, will absolutely help you in your work and throughout your life.
The big takeaways
When asked authentically, this three-syllable question creates connectedness, trust and understanding with anyone, even a person you have just met.
This matters because empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of others, is an essential ingredient in the process of designing solutions for people.
How can we understand how others are feeling unless we ask? Asking the question unlocks the potential to observe problems that would otherwise go unobserved. This is a gold mine of understanding for solutions designers.
"How's Your Day?"
So, I routinely ask this question of people because:
So often, our daily existence and interactions are framed by disconnectedness and distrust. Asking this question to someone else is so counter-cultural. Consequently, it produces a measurable shift in the environment and it creates a sense of trust and connectedness.
One of my favorite contexts to ask the question is while getting things done on the phone, standing in line or chatting online.
Try It and See
Understanding how people in the world are feeling is easy. Just ask them. They'll tell you. Listen to them and learn what problems they are experiencing. It will inform your design decisions.
When the woman you are talking with senses that you care enough about her to ask how her day is going, it breathes fresh life into the conversation, even if she is having a bad day. Somehow when you care enough to ask, it reaffirms her humanity and causes her to reflect on how she's feeling.
If we, as solutions designers, practice this kind of authentic caring, listening and learning on an ongoing basis, we tap into a limitless supply of priceless insight for free by simply exercising a common courtesy towards another person.
Your empathy for people and willingness to be vulnerable enough to go there immensely affect your solution design.
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(boo'-dro) - I help people design solutions collaboratively using agile design methods. I have 30+ years of experience in designing software solutions and business processes, leading cross-functional process improvement teams as a business analyst, and helping product managers define and position products using Pragmatic Marketing. I am passionate about user experience design, dog training, beating drums in musical ensembles and collaboratively creating with a variety of people.