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While working together, how can I discuss my ideas and objections without killing the other person’s motivation?

I want to do a design project with a friend, for study purposes, but I experienced some obstacles I don’t know how to deal with:

  1. We didn’t learn yet how to deal with objections or dislikes from the other. As a result our meetings are inefficient, either because we let the other do whatever they want, or because someone gets into a bad mood and instead of thinking, they try to put on an unaffected face.

  2. My friend has a habit of letting their attention stray away, and they do it at the most unexpected times.

I know that being sincere is needed and inevitable, but I would like to learn a method to keep the attention and motivation even in these situations. My problem is that I don’t know what to say or do to keep our task looking interesting and fun to do.

As a possible solution I thought of inserting a 5 minute period where we shouldn’t say any good things, not even a word, but have to point out the bad parts of our own work.

But I fear this one won’t be enough, that’s why I would like to hear ideas and tricks that could make our sessions going.

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3 Answers 3

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This seems less like a graphic design question and more like a life question, but I still think it is an interesting question to answer.

It is inevitable that you will be stuck on teams, throughout life, where you don't see eye-to-eye with some of your group members.

In a situation where both of you are coming up with design ideas you need to both give each other a chance and hear the other person out. Ask questions. Ask why your team member decided to design something a particular and make sure you listen, don't just wait to talk. It is not productive to just shoot down all ideas right away as this makes the other person feel like their opinions don't matter and they lose motivation.

Who knows, maybe you feel you are a better designer and that you make more informed decisions. However that doesn't change the fact that what the other person has may be a good idea, just maybe poorly executed.

You mentioned that you want to try and have a five minute period where you say nothing "good" but rather only "bad" things. I suggest that instead you try and give each other constructive feedback. That means that you should identify why you don't like a particular design and how you think it can be improved.

In the end, if you or your group member can't deal with constructive criticism then that's a personal problem you need to work on. If they are having issues make it clear to them that you aren't trying to make them feel bad but rather offer suggestions on how they can get better and always be supportive of them.

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Emphasize that in the idea phase, there is no such thing as a bad idea. Some ideas are bad, but they get redeemed when they lead to that big breakthrough. So, in the early stages, don't be quick to shoot anything down, and encourage your counterpart to keep thinking. This sort of kicks the can down the road to when it's time to actually hash out ideas and turn them into reality.

At that stage, all you can really do is emphasize that there's nothing personal. As Johannes said, taking constructive criticism well is an important skill. However, that's a two-way street. I need to get better at taking criticism, but the critic often can do better at expressing himself, making his criticism more...constructive. Objective criticism helps here; separating logic from emotion isn't always possible in design but when it is that goes a long way.

Having clearly defined roles can help too. If every decision has to be made together, then you'll always have a harder time making decisions. For example, if one is stronger with UX and the other is stronger with typography, then maybe make arrangements to defer to each other in those spheres.

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I think this is a great question and frankly, more review/approval applications should help take some of the emotion out of commenting and approvals.

One tool that we use often, ProofHQ, allows us to set up automated workflows, where each time, a different team member can have a role in approval or decision, in addition to commenting. We've identified our subject matter experts for each type of media that gets created and iterated on (video, graphics, content, web copy, etc.) and that person or persons helps to guide that process, with everyone being able to comment.

I think when parts of this are automated, it actually becomes easier to do the work and get back to work, knowing that projects are moving ahead.

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