UX Analysis vs Empathy

Reading time: 2 Minutes

After a night of binge watching the Hannibal series, I lay awake in bed thinking about the enigmatic Dr Hannibal.

*Tic toc*

“…But how is he so good at everything he does” I blurted out to my half asleep girlfriend.

“I mean… he’s a psychiatrist, a chef, a good dresser and a damn martial arts expert.
How can someone have enough time to get good at all those things!”

I paused and braced for the generic response.
However, I was quiet surprised at the reply.

“Psychopaths self actualize, they have no empathy … they have self-control and can become good at what they do because they cannot empathize with people.”

I took this all in for a moment and then chanced “But Hannibal was a psychiatrist.. how could he relate to people then, hmm?” quiet proud of myself.

“Pure analysis” she said. Rolled over and went to sleep.

Several split seconds passed in what felt like hours to me as an entirely new stream of understanding dawned on me.

As a UX practitioner do I employ empathy or pure analysis to understand problems. Am I a Dr Hannibal Lecter, meticulous, analytical, cold and reasoning or am I more like Will Graham a pure empath able to fully emerge myself in another’s state of mind.

I see the merit in the psychopaths ways, it is logical, systemic and can be proven with observations and deductions. However, I have always felt that one can never truly solve a problem unless it is close to one’s heart. By this I mean, in my experience, I have always had to immerse myself in the user’s space to gain a desire to solve their problems. Otherwise its meaningless to me.

If there is no empathy all that is to be gotten is another cookie cutter solution. I need to feel their pain and frustration. Their joys and delights. I need to journey as my user has…so I understand their experience.

If I am honest with myself, I am sensitive and emotional…empathic if you will.

But I often feel like Will immersing myself into the mind of a pure analysts.

“This is my design” — Will Graham

Where on this dark spectrum do you fall?

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