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

by Darren Hood, MSUXD, MSIME

Have you ever discovered a nail in your car’s tire? Are you aware of the potential risk of driving with a nail in your tire? Consider the following:

  • 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.”

Someone’s likely wondering, at this point, what this has to do with UX. Well…. everything. Whether it’s the work or a person’s individual status, constructivism and iteration it at the core of what we do and who we are. No matter what we’re giving attention to or addressing, the application of critical thinking and providing insights that either validate current state (i.e., success) or points out what needs to be changed or improved. Upon hearing this input, the ball is now in the court of the receiving individual.

Enter the “You have a nail in your tire” metaphor. Any time someone provides critical input (and please keep in mind that applicable constructive criticism must be accurate), the person hearing the message is in a position to digest what’s said and then choose whether to apply or disregard. When an accurate statement is made about your/my person or something we’ve worked on, it’s always in our best interest to receive that information and apply the guidance and insights received. End of story. Case closed. No harm, no foul. Thanks for the info.

We know, however, this is not the case—especially in UX today. Today’s world of UX is replete with contrary factors such as hypersensitivity narcissism, toxic positivity, denial, and the like. When you tell these folks they “have a nail in their tire,” instead of being grateful and making the change that was presented (the emotionally intelligent thing to do), they do one (or more) of the following:

  • 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.

These and other responses are basically attempts to dismiss what was relevant. All the while, the “nail is still in the tire.”

Here’s my proposition. The EQ things to do when we receive constructive input include the following:

  • 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.

Conclusion

This post has been written in response to the people who find fault with those, such as myself (and others—I’m not the only one) who CARE ENOUGH about someone’s state, condition, or trajectory to speak the things that are needful, though they’e not comfortable. Not only do these things not result in winning a lot of friends, but many respond by trolling and subjecting those of us willing to speak to character assassination.

Therefore, this is a plea… for your sake. Failing to understand that the things being said and done are actually for YOUR benefit has consequences. Do you want to “lose control of your vehicle?” Aren’t you interested in “having your tire inspected” (by someone with enough expertise to do so)? Do you want to have “a blowout?” Do you want your “tire to go bad?” Do you want your “tire to go flat?” Don’t you want to “drive your vehicle without peril?” The only way you can accomplish this is to “get the nail out of your tire”…. whatever that “nail” might be.

In closing, if someone informs you “there’s a nail in your tire,” that’s a good thing. Such people, while despised and avoided by many, are actually helping you to avoid potential tragedy and hardship. They’re helping you to enjoy a better quality of life. When there’s a detrimental factor in your UX career, it makes all the sense in the world for you to be aware, even when the discovery doesn’t result in making you feel good.

People who CARE ENOUGH to bring such issues to light are demonized when, truth be told, the silent factions are guilty of negligence and disrespect. It’s time to embrace today’s “nail” dialogs so we can be in a better position to navigate our UX careers upward and onward.

It’s time to stop rejecting and resisting the “nail in the tire” conversations. It’s time to be better at identifying, digesting, and placing the appropriate value on constructive dialog. It’s time to stop being offended by truth!!!

Let’s lose the “nails” and take the UX discipline to the next level…. together.

About Darren

Darren Hood is a 26+ year UX practitioner with a broad professional footprint that spans several types of business. He serves as an adjunct professor at Kent State University (Kent, Ohio), Lawrence Tech University (Southfield, Michigan), and Harrisburg University (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania). He is also one of the authors featured in “97 Things Every UX Practitioner Should Know.”

You can hear more from the Darren by checking out the UX Uncensored Medium page or listening to The World of UX with Darren Hood wherever podcasts are available.

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UX Uncensored

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