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Empathy Interview

As I’ve discussed many times on this blog before, empathy is an important and powerful tool when working on problems. Without empathy, you cannot understand a user’s pains. Going back to my post from last week, without empathizing with his end user, Doug didn’t know what he needed to do in order to create another good product.

To practice this I interviewed a friend of mine. The prompt was this: “Use a marker to chart the emotions associated with a specific experience navigating college during the time of COVID as first-year freshman.” While interviewing, I learned a lot about him. He talked about how he was anxious about college starting even before COVID became a thing. He mentioned, “It’s a lot to go from high school to college, especially when you have no clue how everything can change.” Additionally, he mentioned how he was anxious about his roommates. He was worried that he might not mesh well with them or they might be a different person than they represented on their room match profile.

In working with our nonprofit partner I can also use empathy to help better understand their situation. Empathizing with them will better help me understand what their true problems are rather than simply offering a solution without understanding. Without empathy, you cannot understand a user’s pains – and more importantly, what solution they need. Again, going back to the example of Doug in the last post, empathy was what helped him to make a solution that was better for patients at the hospital. Before his new system the hospital had to sedate about 80% of kids before doing the scan. Using design thinking and empathy, he was able to reduce that to less than 1%.

The questions that provided the most insight for me were the most open-ended ones. This is because people have a tendency to “fill in the gaps” as they please without having the confines of a question to go around. Humans are naturally social beings and we like to talk. Oftentimes in interviewing people like to leave space around a question so that the interviewee gives more information about the question that you otherwise wouldn’t have known. What got me the least insight were questions with more borders and restrictions. The interviewee is less likely to talk outside of those boundaries you set.

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