“How does that make you feel?”

24 February 2023 Camilla Cicatello

If you’ve ever watched a movie where a character visits a psychologist, this is usually a common line: “How does that make you feel?”. As researchers, we need to put on the same hat to hone our empathy skills and dig deeper to uncover those nuggets of insights.

So how do you empathise with your users or customers?

  1. Relationship building – maybe you only have an hour to speak to a user but you can definitely take 10 minutes to build rapport with them. Ask them about themselves, find common ground, crack a few jokes and before you know it the “awkwardness” of being interviewed melts away and they are more open with their answers.
  2. Give them space – a good interviewer knows how to lean into the silences to allow the user to have time to think and dig a bit deeper when they answer.
  3. Put yourself in their shoes – Try imagining what they are experiencing and think of yourself in the same position. This could be as simple as thinking of how nervous they could be doing the interview and making them feel at ease.
  4. Don’t assume don’t assume anything during the interview. Always ask those questions even if they are tough or uncomfortable.
  5. Reflective listening – a good way to make the user feel heard is to repeat back to them what they are saying. Confirm that you understood them correctly and you are both on the same page.

“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?” – Henry David Thoreau

Ultimately, empathy, just like conducting good interviews, is a skill or a muscle that needs to be flexed! The more you prioritise empathy during interviews, the better your research and insights will be.