Why are UX designers so sensitive? UX Question #31

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Brent from Houston, Texas, asks: why are UX designers so sensitive?

I love that question. Thanks for asking, Brent.

This is UX Question number 31 and I am Ben Judy.

Why are UX designers so sensitive? This question is hilarious. There’s got to be a story behind why you have this perception of UX designers.

Let’s first define what we mean by sensitive. A designer could be sensitive in that they are an empathetic or sympathetic person. They are sensitive to the feelings of others. That’s good. UX designers do need to be attuned to the emotions and needs of users in order to create effective designs. We are the ‘empathy people.’

Sensitive could mean easily offended and too defensive. That would be bad. That could make a designer difficult to work with.

I remember very early in my career, definitely being too sensitive to criticism of my designs. And I can remember some clients in particular, when I was working at an agency, and they were very direct with their feedback and their opinions and their direction to me, and I took offense. And I really didn’t need to.

Let’s think about why a designer might appear to be too sensitive.

Maybe they’re suffering from imposter syndrome. A lack of confidence and a fear of being exposed as unskilled. They might appear overly sensitive because of that insecurity.

It could be due to frustration. As we discussed in episode 12, UX is a multidisciplinary role, and sometimes we’re asked to do too much. At the speed of business, this can feel like an impossible job in some situations.

Or maybe there’s just a general frustration that the designer does not feel valued by their employers. We certainly live in a time where there is often no loyalty from employer to employees. Power flows in one direction. This is not unique to UX but in many organizations, designers are on the lowest rung of the ladder of positional authority. That can make anyone sensitive, if they feel like they’re being kicked around.

Another reason a designer might seem sensitive is perhaps because they attach their ego to their work in an unhealthy way. Go back to episode 21 where I answer the question, how can I avoid taking design feedback personally?

Whatever the reason, a designer being emotionally sensitive to the needs and feeling of others is a good thing. A designer being too defensive or easily offended is not good. That could be a lack of personal maturity or perhaps some trauma that needs to be healed.

Ultimately, that emotional sensitivity can be both a strength and a weakness, depending on how it is expressed and managed.

Keep asking your questions about UX. Next time, I’ll answer the question: Should I use Chat GPT for UX work?

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