Lesson for UX Writers from Dale Carnegie

Photo by Ben Sweet on Unsplash

In 2018, I decided to pursue a career as a user experience writer.

Coming from a copywriter in an advertising agency, I know nothing about UX and need to learn more.

Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug was the first UX book I read.

Along the way, I read books recommended by the UX writing community, such as Kinneret Yifrah’s Microcopy, Torrey Podmajersky’s Strategic Writing for UX, and Nicole Fenton and Kate Kiefer Lee’s Nicely Said.

Nobody mentioned Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence Others. During one of my trips, I reread this 1936 classic. This book gives insight into understanding people better, and I realized this skill would help UX writers thrive.

Let’s take a look at the key lessons.

We need empathy to relate to other people’s perspectives

Empathy is the first step in design thinking and an essential skill for UX writers. To create content which easy to use and speaks to users, we must put ourselves in their shoes and understand their motivations, frustrations, and goals.

In his sixth book, Dale Carnegie emphasizes the importance of empathy in human relationships. He contends by putting ourselves in the shoes of others and attempting to understand their perspectives; we can better connect with and influence them.

These are the critical principles for demonstrating empathy found in the book:

  1. Showing genuine interest: listening carefully, asking questions, and sympathizing with their experiences and emotions.
  2. Avoiding criticism: instead of criticizing others, focus on finding ways to praise and encourage them.
  3. Respect others’ opinions and ideas, even if we disagree.
  4. Listening well: Carnegie emphasizes the importance of active listening and suggests avoiding interruptions and distractions while someone is speaking.

Empathy is critical to effective UX writing as it lets us put the user in the center and write compelling, user-friendly content.

“If you want to build a product that’s relevant to people, you need to put yourself in their shoes.” — Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter.

Active listening helps us to gain a deeper understanding

Listening and active listening are two distinct concepts; the distinction is in the level of attention and engagement required.

Active listening is fully engaging with someone while speaking, including paying attention to both the words and nonverbal cues. It entails listening to understand the speaker’s thoughts, feelings, and perspectives and demonstrate empathy and interest in what they say.

UX writers must master active listening to gain insights, comprehend other people’s points of view, and establish strong relationships. The book teaches several vital principles for practicing active listening, including:

  1. Pay close attention to the speaker and avoid distractions.
  2. Avoid interrupting the speaker and allow them to express their thoughts and feelings fully.
  3. Actively express interest in the speaker’s words through body language, facial expressions, and other nonverbal cues.
  4. Ask thoughtful and engaging questions to encourage the speaker to continue and provide more detail.

We can benefit from active listening to build rapport with stakeholders for a smooth collaboration.

In user interviews and copy research phase, it will help us to gain a deeper understanding of the users. When we truly understand our users, it improves our ability to write content that resonates with users.

“I had listened intently. I had listened because I was genuinely interested… That kind of listening is one of the highest compliments we can pay anyone.” — Dale Carnegie, page 85.

Influence our way to get seat at the table

A Seat at the Table refers to having a say in critical decision-making processes and a position of power within an organization or community. It entails playing a role in determining the group’s direction and goals and enables us to make a significant impact.

By having “a seat at the table” we become an integral part of the product design process. Working closely with designers, developers, and other stakeholders to ensure the user’s voice counts and the end product meets their needs and expectations instead of replacing lorem ipsum all day.

Skills and knowledge alone will not get us a seat at the table; we must network, build relationships, and wield influence. Some of the key lessons from the book on influencing are:

  1. Actively listen to others and demonstrate our understanding of their needs and perspectives. Show genuine interest in others will help build trust and rapport, making it easier for us to influence them.
  2. Find ways to find common ground with others and be willing to make compromises and adjustments to accommodate their needs and perspectives. A common ground will help us build bridges and create win-win outcomes.
  3. Treat others with respect and appreciation, and acknowledge their strengths and contributions. Making others feel important will help create a positive and supportive environment for influence.
  4. Influence others by tapping into their feelings and values. Show how our ideas align with their goals and aspirations and help them see the personal benefits of your perspective.
  5. Speak regarding the other person’s interests. To persuade others, we need to frame our message to resonate with their interests and concerns.
  6. Criticism and negativity can be counterproductive and damage relationships. Instead, focus on positive reinforcement and constructive feedback.

Along with developing our expertise, demonstrating integrity, and delivering results, an essential part of building influence is creating a positive and robust relationship with the people around us.

“The only way on earth to influence other people is to talk about what they want and show them how to get it.” — Dale Carnegie, page 33.

Wrapping up

Photo by author.

Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence Others shows us a critical step before we got into the writing board: understanding humans’ needs, wants, perspectives, emotions, and how to build a connection.

To thrive as UX writers/designers, we must also understand human behavior and how to build relationships with them. Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence Others taught us to develop essential interpersonal skills for collaborating with others to create a relevant product.

Interpersonal skills, along with our UX writing skills, will allow us to thrive and accelerate our careers.

“The principles taught in this book will work only when they come from the heart. I am not advocating a bag of tricks. I am talking about a new way of life.” — Dale Carnegie, page 231.

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Sincerely, a UX writer who is trying to improve his interpersonal skills.

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