Tuesday, November 10, 2020

The One Skill Every Designer Needs to be a Better Communicator

There are different soft skills today that designers can use to be better designers. Skills such as storytelling, empathy, and listening are just a few of the skills that make designers more valuable.

But there's one skill that underlines all the others. It's a skill that designers must have to even begin to make their other skills relevant. That is the skill of persuasion.

Designers are not the only ones who can benefit, but persuasion underlines all of the things designers have to be able to do such as marketing, communication, client relationships, and brand building.

But, what do I mean by persuasion? Does it mean getting people to agree with you? Agreement is good, but it is a shortsighted goal. Rather, you want to be an effective communicator. You want to make your ideas understandable the best you can.

But how do you know when you are effective?

The best way to think about it is from the recipients point of view.

When someone tries to persuade you of something, which way would you rather feel after the encounter?

  • Educated

    You're feeling like you have been informed about something you may not have known much about, or you feel like you've learned something entirely new. You have been given the ability to assess a new idea later, and you came away from the encounter better informed.

  • Irritated

    You realize the whole encounter was just for the benefit of the speaker, and not much for you. You don't feel like you've been given the freedom to assess their idea — they only want you to act in their best interest. You came away from the encounter feeling harassed and not listened to.

  • Manipulated

    You're feeling like the information they gave you was carefully selected and presented to shape your thinking for the speaker’s benefit. You feel they were purposely keeping you from making an informed assessment by getting you distracted. You got the sense the speaker just wanted your compliance, not accurate understanding. You came away from the encounter distrusting the speaker (or yourself) — feeling like you weren’t quite sure you caught all of the hidden agendas.

Here are three examples of how these communication styles play out.

  • The Educator

    Ben feels that people would agree with him if they had an accurate understanding of the issues. (It can be about a cool product or service, or some policy concern.)

    He’s open to the idea that he might be missing some information or that he may be wrong in his assessment. But that doesn’t mean he’s not confident in his ideas. He just wants people to know what he knows so that they can make an informed decision.

    He’s not afraid of counter arguments because he can only grow from the experience. So, he’s confident once people are accurately informed they’ll probably agree with him.

  • The Irritator

    Jackie is a real go-getter. She knows what people need, but believes they are incapable of accepting it unless she drills it into their heads. So, she believes the only way they would decide in favor of her point of view is to be inundated with information.

    She wants to put people on a tight timeline so they’ll feel the sense of urgency. She knows if they think too long, they will think wrong (not in favor of her idea).

  • The Manipulator

    Clyde thinks he’s right about everything. But he realizes not everyone will agree with him. In his mind the only way to get people to do the right thing is to be told anything that will get them to pick the right choice.

    He has a low opinion of people's thinking ability and wants to shape it. But, Clyde wants to convice everyone he has their best interest at heart. (But, really it's primarily for Clyde's own interests.)

Here's why this is so important.

You want to get your ideas across in a persuasive manner because you want people to be attracted, not repelled by your ideas. It doesn't matter if you are marketing a product or service, developing a convincing brand, or giving advice to a friend, you want what you have to offer to be a pleasant experience — visually or verbally. And you want it to be an honest experience.

Photo by Matilda Wormwood from Pexels

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