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product design session @chegg circa 2012

Negotiation is a must have design skill

Diego Mendes
Oct 19, 2013 · 3 min read

I am a UX Designer and researcher. To get here I studied a lot. I have a BS in Psychology, an MBA and an MS in Human Factors in Design. In total I took over 70 classes, and the most important class I have ever taken was negotiation.

It doesn’t matter how good you are at creating products, or how good looking the UI is, or even how innovative the experience is. Unless you are a good negotiator, the product you want to create may never see the light of day.

As a designer, you have to negotiate all the time with engineers, product managers and other designers, not to mention business executives. You have to strive for simplicity and consistency, getting things done on time while frequently accommodating very conflicting goals from users, product and business.

Given how important I find negotiation to be, here are 3 tips on how you can become a better negotiator, based on my own experience:

1. Deeply understand everyone involved

“A negotiator should observe everything. You must be part Sherlock Holmes, part Sigmund Freud.” — Victor Kiam

In some projects, all goals align. Designers, engineers, product, business and users all want the same thing. Those are what I call “heavenly” projects. Most times however, different stakeholders have different goals. Understanding what each stakeholder goal is allows you to understand their mindset and build empathy towards them. It helps you to respect their point of view.

So think ahead of time. Understand who the stakeholders are and what their objectives are. This understanding of each stakeholder and your respect for them will help you throughout the negotiation process.

2. Don’t wait for others to come to you, instead, go meet them where they are

“The most important trip you may take in life, is meeting people halfway” — Henry Boyle

Conflict between designers and engineers or designers and product managers is pretty common. You will have them. I have never been a part of a team where we didn’t have conflict. The key thing is to keep in mind that all teams work for the same goal, which is to better serve the user through the product.

3. Don’t let emotions get in the way

The most difficult thing in any negotiation… is making sure that you strip it of the emotion and deal with the facts” — Howard Baker

Depending on your personality, it can be hard to keep emotions out of the negotiating room. As a very passionate Brazilian, I can tell you it is not easy for me, but I have learned and improved and it can be done. There are a couple of tricks that help here:

A. Keep in mind that your design is not your own. It is shared with others, and they will help you build a better product.

B. Designing is an act of service. Think of design as a way to serve others. Keep your focus on the people you are serving and how your design will help improve their lives rather than your own feelings.

If you keep these tips in mind, you will become a better negotiator, your design process will be better, and consequently your product will be better as well.

Follow me on twitter: @diegomendes

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