Get out of your comfort zone and talk with people

Two people talking at sunset

To do good stuff, you have to get out of your comfort zone. 10 years ago, just before I got my first job after graduating, I was a scared person. I still am.

What scared me the most? Talking with people. It scares most people — some more than others, but it scares them nonetheless.

This is pointed out by Erika Hall, being interviewed by Mac Hasley:

What I’ve found in all my years of consulting is that if you go to any organization, everyone is terrified.

They’re terrified of their colleagues, of the people who report to them, of the people above them. They’re terrified of looking like they don’t know what they’re doing. And it’s all because nobody has been taught to talk to people, or negotiate with people — despite the fact that these things are really learnable.

That first job I got involved helping run a website. I quite liked the idea of sitting behind a monitor, not having much to do with people. Especially people out there waves arms around.

Before long, I began to understand that doing a good job meant interacting with people. Initially, that was through meetings.

A bit later, I began to understand that really doing a good job meant interacting with people out there. Our users.

Organizations have this fear of research: business people, technologists, designers. But they don’t come out and say: “I’m afraid.” They say: “We just don’t have the time.”

It still scares me a bit. But someone has to do it. Not many people will.

And like most scary things, when I take the plunge and actually do it, I feel much better afterwards. It’s good to talk to your users.

Many people prefer the comfort of a number from an analytics platform, or a metric in a spreadsheet, to make their decisions for them.

Numbers have their place. But they are not as robust as people like to think.

…if somebody sees something expressed as a number they think: “That’s a fact.” But numbers aren’t facts. How you access and interpret quantitative data can be hugely biased.

When quantitative approaches are used as a replacement for getting deeper insights, it amounts to a sloppy shortcut. Leaning on numbers alone is borderline irresponsible.

So, get out of your comfort zone. Start talking to the people that use your thing, or are impacted by it.

The world is messy. You want to expose yourself to that messiness, because whatever you’re designing has to work in real life.

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