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  • Matthew Doty

Tactful Persistence: A Key to Realizing Human-Centered Change

In our last blog post, I outlined a framework for helping organizations, teams & individuals understand, embrace & sustain the practice of Experience Design. An important aspect of that framework is the concept of change. In this post, I want to briefly dive deeper into a principle that I've actually seen work time and time again in helping organizations, teams and individuals believe and think differently. I call this principle Tactful Persistence.

The concept of persistence is often invoked when describing something that requires our sustained concentration, attention & effort and is viewed is an admirable trait we strive to develop in ourselves.

Conversely, persistence can sometimes be associated with negative emotions when others aim it at us. Think of the last time you interacted with an enthusiastic sales rep, a determined toddler or a political zealot. Chances are these interactions were not super positive, yet, these are all examples of persistence. Because persistence is so critical to realizing human-centered change, I want to be clear about what I mean when I recommend its use.

Definition time!

Tactful Persistence: tact·ful per·sist·ence /ˈtak(t)fəl pərˈsistəns/


The art and science of consistently advocating for what you believe is best in spite of difficulty or opposition in such a way that demonstrates genuine respect and eventually inspires others to change their minds

Consistently Advocating for What you Believe is Best

In the context of Experience Design(XD), you will most often be advocating for anything and everything that helps you, your team or your organization put the people you're designing for at the center of attention as you create products, services & technology. Whether you're advocating for more research, a new human-centered process or an entire cultural shift, it falls to you, the XD professional(s) in the room, to be the one(s) to tirelessly advocate for your audiences' needs. They aren't there to speak for themselves.

You need to be cautious, however, that you don't let your personal agenda or ego get mixed in with your advocacy. It's not easy to effectively advocate for someone who isn't you, so, be mindful of your motivations.

Demonstrating Genuine Respect

As an Experience Designer, you need to realize that the number of decisions you own, relative to the number of decisions that need to be made (and made well), is very small. This means 3 things:

  1. You have to rely on others (most of whom will have different objectives than you) to make certain critical decisions that impact the audience's experience.

  2. You will have (and should have) opinions about decisions others own (sometimes very strong ones). Share these opinions freely and constructively. Invite others' opinions into decisions you own as well.

  3. You will need to influence and inspire other decision owners. Strive to have the same level of empathy for the other decision owners as you have for the people you're designing for. You'll be tempted to coerce or otherwise force other decision owners to do what you want. RESIST THIS AT ALL COSTS as it will damage your relationships, limit your influence & not result in a good experience for your audience.

Inspiring Others

Abraham Lincoln was an inspiring figure for many reasons. For me, this quote has had a dramatic influence on how I work with other people in all aspects of my life.

So how do we convince someone that we are their "sincere friend"? The answer is simple (but not easy):

Be their sincere friend!

Here are a few examples of what a sincere friend does to inspire others:

  • Care about what they care about

  • Be interested in their success

  • Demonstrate how what you're doing will actually help them achieve their goals and make their lives better

  • Have a vision for how things should be, meet them where they are & be there for them when they are ready for what's next


An important aspect of the framework I introduced in our last blog post, is the concept of change. Tactful Persistence is a critical behavior you must master in order to realize the human-centered changes you want to see in others. I've actually seen Tactful Persistence work time and time again in helping organizations, teams & individuals believe and think differently. If you would like to learn more about Tactful Persistence or any of the other critical behaviors you want to master, let's talk! I'd love to know if the ideas shared in this post are helpful for you, so, please like, comment and share! Also, if you'd like XD Go to help you, your team or your organization develop stronger XD capabilities, drop us a line!

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