Building Self-Empathy: How to embrace your perspective as a designer
As human-centered designers, we focus on understanding the perspective of people who experience a problem. We empathize with their needs, and pain points. However, a lot of times we forget to empathize with our own perspectives, values, and pain points. How can we build self-empathy while empathizing with others?
What is the role of empathy in design?
Empathy! A delightful word that is being used more frequently than ever in the worlds of technology, human-centered design, and user experience. Empathy is an art that requires practice. Building empathy doesn’t mean creating detailed personas or conducing 100 interviews to understand a person’s perspective, it simply means creating a flexible and open mindset to acknowledge and accept people’s pain points, needs, and values. It means keeping your arms wide open to embrace new thoughts, beliefs, and values systems that come from different groups of people. It means being able to understand beyond your own assumptions and knowledge. It means developing an internal understanding about the external souls and their complexities.
It seems like a great art! Then, what is the concern?
The concern arises from the external notion of empathy.
I consider myself a flexible designer that is capable of empathizing with different target groups, stakeholders, coworkers, and even business requirements. My role is mainly translating user and business requirements into actionable tasks for the engineers. Empathy plays a very important role in balancing all of those requirements. In other words, I empathize to balance! However, when I empathize with all of these external individuals and their requirements, I often tend to forget the art of self-empathy.
What is self-empathy?
Self-empathy is empathy towards ourselves and our perspectives. Don’t get me wrong! I’m not questioning the role or value of empathy. I’m just reminding you that the value of self-empathy, as one of the core values that makes our perspectives unique. If we don’t practice and learn self-compassion, we cannot truly empathize with others. If there’s always a voice inside you that you cannot understand, control, or respond to, how do you listen to the voice of others? Self-empathy in design means being able to acknowledge your perspective as a designer. It doesn’t mean that we should always apply our own perspectives, it simply means that we should understand them.
But, what will I achieve?
Allowing yourself to be heard and acknowledged develops creativity. It helps you build empathize with different groups of people. Your perspective has an invaluable impact on every decision that you make in a design process. It affects the way you translate people’s needs and believes in your designs. So not only acknowledge it, but also embrace it!
LET’S DO THIS! Wait, but how?
Just like any other skill, self-empathy requires practice. Start with listening to your inner voice. Acknowledge the difference between fact, knowledge, and insight. Document your thoughts and compare it with what you see in data. Empathize with your perspective, but learn when does it needs to be applied and when does it need to be controlled. Use self-empathy in all aspects of your life. Don’t force your thoughts to be quiet, instead give them a voice to speak in your designs.