Pain is relative.

The experience of pain is subjective to each individual.This can make it really hard for us to understand another person’s pain.

We tend to gauge their pain by imagining how we would feel in the same situation. This is inevitably flawed as we can never truly and completely be in another person’s shoes. We can but imagine what it would be like if we were them in their situation. And we make value judgements from conjecture: “would they feel this or that?” “would it hurt?” “how much would it hurt?”

A consistent and genuine willingness to understand users’ pain is the core of user-centred design.

In gathering design requirements, we inevitably overlay our own experiences, feelings and judgements to extrapolate someone else’s situation, to try and understand their pain.

When we encounter a pain that we just don’t get (and we will), we run the real risk of dismissing or downplaying it, to the detriment of the process..

Practised empathy does go a long way towards helping this situation. Even if we do not rationally get the pain in a particular situation, we can still acknowledge the reality of that pain for that person.