Practical Empathy

Book Notes

I bought this book almost immediately after it was published. As someone who has been told time and time again that I lack tact, I dove into this book with abandon and joyous expectation that this book would help me be more aware of the people around me, their motivations, their stories, their expectations, their fears and hopes. My desire was to learn to be empathetic. For the first six chapters of this book, however, I was fairly disappointed in this book. Pretty much the only thing I got out of said first six chapters was the correction that one is not empathetic, but rather one has empathy. Empathy is something that is developed, and, oh, boy, I was thinking this was not the book to teach me how to develop it. This was not the book for me.

To start, the first three (of nine total) chapters are introduction to developing empathy. I was so confused by the lack of anything useful in the first three chapters that I figured I missed something, something so fundamental that it would be obvious on a second pass.

So, I read the first three chapters again.


It's three chapters of why I want to buy this book. I already bought the book. I am already reading the book. Tell me how to start this journey, push me down this path to empathy already. I don't need more convincing, just go already. The first three chapters could have been condensed into one introductory chapter.

Okay, so along chapter four, I have more than just the proper definition of empathy. Good. Let's go.

Right into formal listening sessions.

Uh... What?

Interviewing Users

Book Notes

THIS is a fantastic book to read to learn about how to interview someone for research, whether it's market research, user research or design research. If you're starting out in the area of interviewing users, or need to understand how to structure interviews, read this book, by Steve Portigal, published by Rosenfeld Media.

The book gives an overview of the interviewing process, including a warning about being sure you're looking for what the client really wants, which may actually just be validation for something already done (the "gaining insights" versus "persuading the company" dichotomy), as well as a very specific roadmap on how to prepare and conduct user interviews. I love the reference to satisficing, a term given to "good enough" solutions where yes, the pain point exists, but the pain is less annoying than the effort to fix it. How many products are there that solve satisficing (satisfying + suffice) problems? I'd say TONNES and WAY TOO MANY. And likely, "not a product to build a company around."

The book has helpful information on building a rapport with an interviewee, documenting the interview, asking question and optimizing the interview. There are parts on how to ask questions, how to prepare for an interview, and what to do when adjusting the interview with the not-quite-perfect-fit interviewee.

The book's only lack is in the "how to analyze the interview data," yet even that isn't bad. There's an overview on how to start analyzing provided, along with references for other books to read. The analysis of interview data a whole other book, so I'm unsurprised the topic wasn't fully covered here, and nor would I have expected it to be.

Interviewing Users is a great book. If I had to start interviewing people for gaining product or market insights, I would happily reread this book and use it as a guide.