Introduction

Early in my career as a Product Designer, I spent most of my time defending my decisions, talking more, and heavily carrying the conviction that my choices are always right. After all, i’m the ‘expert’ they hired, right? Why would anyone question my decisions?

I quickly realized that i’m not learning much by doing all the talking, all the time. If anything, The person i’m talking to is usually way above me.

Learn more by listening

Before you started your first design job, think of all the classes you took, all the people you watched, all the blogs you read. How much talking did you do? How much listening did you do?

I hope that sentence sparks something in you, because it did for me. I'm not saying never justify your design decisions, or never contribute in meetings. I'm saying there's a balance that you need to find because there's value in listening. The person you are talking to may be saying something, but in reality, means something else completely. It's your job to listen and distill that information.

If you are in the group of people that think its the other person's job to convey the information as clear as possible, then you are right. But you're not. You have been put in a situtation where the information was not conveyed accurately, you can either pass the blame, or try to find a solution.

If you're feeling under appreciated.

Depending on the maturity of design at the company you work at, you may feel under appreciated or as though you constantly need to justify your decisions. Why hire me if you will just question everything I do? You start talking more, get nowhere and before you even know it, you have burnt out. You no longer want to work at said company, you're questioning whether design is the right field for you, and intrusive thoughts just start pouring in.

Know that you are not the only one who feels that way. Take a step back and start listening.

The scenario I just described usually happens at companies with little to no understanding of design. Whatever you learned, wherever you learned it is simply not enough, because the problem lies not within the how, but the why. To put salt to the wound, the why might be convicing, but until they see results, it doesn't matter.

This is a tricky one because it's specific to the company's environment. Some companies genuinely do learn. Some are stuck. Some companies make a conscious effort to learn how to adapt design as one of its core functions, while others never do.

If you're in the former, you may gain valuable experience. If you're in the latter, you're wasting time. Make a conscious effort to listen and know what type of company yours is and start taking action.

There are about a dozen other scenarios where listening has helped me learn something new. From collaboration with various stakeholders, to simple changes like the infamous placement of a button. There's no magic formula, there's just a shift in mindset. Stop talking, and start listening.