Truth Talking & Diplomacy

Okay, so how many of us in our lives have put our proverbial foot in our mouths?

I have! And when that happens, there's no way to take it back. No sorries, no apologies will take away that sting.

We're all about win-win here, and this is assured with Sandwiching

We're all about win-win here, and this is assured with Sandwiching

As a UX researcher, we are placed in a position of providing feedback about a user experience or player experience. We study for years to stay objective and learn about the users... And just report on this to the Designers and team. But it's never easy telling someone their baby is ugly... And that's the place we are constantly placed in. 

We are the messenger. 'Don't kill the messenger'? Well it's not personal critique, it's our reporting about the users' experience. Again not our experience. 

No matter how many times you tell someone its not personal, it still feels personal. And typically the said designer or whomever crosses their arms, shuts down and disregards anything your reporting the users experienced. 

Here are some tips to help smooth these naturally difficult reporting situations -- and diplomatically, how you let someone know people think their baby is ugly. 

Here's the basic algorithm: --Say something positive, then the critical element, and something positive again--

I learned this technique in college at a counseling psychology class.  It's officially called 'sandwiching'

Test it. Take a buddy ( someone who will easily forgive you) and tell them the shirt they're wearing is ugly. That's it. 

Then, tell you same friend something positive about their attire. 

Get specific such as the color and style. 'really nice tennis shoes... I like the off white color a s the style makes it look like a street shoe. I really like them. 

Then the critical part. Tell them the same critique you told them before 

Then follow it up with another positive comment about their attire. 

Now ask them, which way felt better to hear the critique. 

Unless the person is masochistic, you'll find better receptiveness from your friend in hearing the critique with sandwiching. 

There are many more of these diplomacy tips. This one is my personal favorite. It's saved and softened many a relationship. When you're in the business of truth in this PC world, it's ever so important to speak in a way it's easy to be heard. 


Heather Desurvire  UX Researcher

User Behavioristics & USC Faculty |  +1 310.463.4603 |