You Have a Nail in Your Tire (or “How to Recognize and Digest Constructive Input for UXers”)

  • According to CarParts.com, “The longer you drive with a nail in your tire, the higher the risk of you losing control of your vehicle and causing a serious accident.”
  • YourMechanic.com says “As soon as you notice a nail in your tire, contact a tire store to have your tire inspected. Driving with a hole in your tire is potentially dangerous and could cause a blowout. Furthermore, driving too long with the nail can ruin the tire so you will have to replace the entire tire, instead of having a small piece plugged.”
  • SaneDriver.com contributes to this discussion, saying “Driving on a nail in tire for an extended period damages the tire, though. So, as long as the tire does not run flat or the nail size is small, you can keep driving at your peril. Note that a nail in a tire threatens public safety. If you drive on a regular tire, you can’t go too long with a nail in it.”
  • They ask deflecting questions—questions that usually can’t be addressed in some way, form, or fashion, which licenses them (in their mind) to disregard what was said.
  • They insinuate messages that were not part of the person’s statements, distracting others and starting a conversation around the misdirected and imaginary dialog.
  • They engage in acts of character assassination (e.g., falsely accusing the person of being mean or insensitive), hoping to cancel and discredit the person who brought the message and (in their mind) dismiss the relevance and accountability of the constructive statements.
  • They shift the conversation from the message to the person behind the message and attempt to cast the messenger in a doubtful light. Mission accomplished. By the time the perp is done, nobody is even talking about what was said initially. Instead, they’re talking about the messenger, even though most facets of the discussion contain fallacies and have zero merit.
  • Similar to #2 and #4, they just change the subject.
  • First, labor (if necessary) to confirm the accuracy of what’s presented. If someone’s talking about your work and it’s accurate, validate, own it, and make the change(s). If they’re talking about you and something about you that needs to change, validate, own it, and make the change(s). Again, however, the first key is validation. If you respond to inaccurate input, thoughts, or guidance, you will fix something that’s not broken and, now, you’ll be in a bad way.
  • Society regularly uses terms such as positive and negative. In reality, there’s no such thing. There is, however, such things as being constructive or destructive. Constructive things build, benefit, and help people grow, while destructive things cause people to regress, become victims of sabotage, and render folks vain and void of value. When someone gives you advice and you think it to be “negative,” the only way you’ll truly know is to consider what would happen if you were to accept what’s being said and apply it. If you can truly build, benefit, and grow from what’s said, no matter how it may sound or make you feel, it’s actually constructive. If it’s the opposite, it’s destructive.
  • Constructive statements may not make you feel good. As a matter-of-fact, you might feel terrible. It’s better, however, to do good than to feel good. There’s no sense operating in delusion (i.e., toxic positivity).
  • Building on #2, let’s say someone gives you some UX career or educational advice and their tone of voice is truly inappropriate. In such cases, I challenge you to separate what they’ve said from their tone, gauge the value in the words and directives alone, and move accordingly. This will help you to harvest gold from folks who aren’t that good at talking to people. Remember, their tone doesn’t change the value of their words.
  • Some people have gone their whole lives being resentful of anyone who gave them a stern word. Truth is, practically all of us can look back at a stern word we received from an adult when we were young. We didn’t like the way it made us feel, but when we revisit such a memory, we now know that which was said or done to be true or the right thing to do. Now, that we’re all older and more mature, it’s time to reference those retrospective moments of enlightenment and apply it to our UX aspirations. Greater success awaits those that do.

Conclusion

About Darren

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UX Uncensored

UX Uncensored

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Darren Hood: UX pro (27+ yrs), adjunct professor, TEDx and conference speaker, author (97 Things UX book), host of The World of UX podcast, & “pure UX” advocate