1) Briefly reflect on the lessons learnt from each exercise
A. Reflective listening
As listener, I was aware of the conflict between the requirement of empathetic reflection and the fear of interrupting the flow of the speaker. My speaker was a confident storyteller who understood the importance of narrative, so there was a tendency to allow them to continue uninterrupted and only interject occasionally so they were aware they were being understood. In both roles eye contact was important, both to engage the listener and to confirm to the speaker that they had the attention of the listener. As speakers, we were aware of the importance of creating a narrative and delivering it in an entertaining manner using voice modulation, eye contact and, in some instances, hand gestures to engage the other party.
Reflective listening, where the ideas of the speaker are reframed by the listener also allows the speaker to know they have been understood and misinterpretations are clarified. It is therefore important in the process of communication and assists the designer, not only in empathising with the user but ensuring that the needs of the user are interpreted correctly. A facilitator may assist the process by slowing down the flow of information and prompting the listener to restate and clarify what they have believe they have heard.
B. Defamiliarisation of Everyday Reality
This exercise reminded me of a stimulus provided for creative writing classes. In both instances the writer is attempting to explore and create empathy. It requires you to think in terms of smell, touch, sight and hearing and use a stimuli to trigger memories. We were required to watch a video of a train platform and explore our reactions to the scenario. The exercise was visually stimulating and required self reflection. The following chart briefly outlines my initial reactions and memories inspired by the stimulus.
Personally I found this exercise very easy to undertake as I was familiar with it and its outcomes. I could empathise with the users of public transport, particularly trains, as it brought back memories of my physical reactions to the experience. I could see others around me, however, had difficulties engaging with the exercise. This could possibly be overcome with practise or by making the stimulus more accommodating to the way different people experience their environment. For example making the stimulus physical and allowing some participants to explore the concept kinesthetically may improve the experience for them and produce greater feelings of empathy.
C. Emphatic Modelling
This exercise was personally less effective in creating empathy as it recreated a disability that I experience daily. For me the experience of seeing the familiar through layers of plastic was not dissimilar to walking around in the morning prior to finding my glasses.
However, it did remind me that sometimes it is necessary to “walk a mile in some else’s shoes” to gain some understanding of the challenges they face. I can see that this type of exercise could be useful in design to gain a greater understanding of the needs of a user.