Developer Tea

3 Counterintuitive Rules of Communication with Co-workers

Episode Summary

In today's episode, we're talking about communication with co-workers and how we can improve those interactions.

Episode Notes

In today's episode, we're talking about communication with co-workers and how we can improve those interactions.

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Episode Transcription

If you've ever been in an argument with a coworker or a friend, a roommate, a classmate, if you've ever been in an argument with anyone really, you would know that most arguments are the result of misunderstanding. A communication breakdown, an intention versus a reception disconnect. What happens when we try to do one thing and unfortunately, sometimes it seems the opposite actually occurs? That's what we're talking about in today's episode. Specifically, I'm going to give you three tips for dealing with your coworkers in a way that might be counterintuitive so you can have a better relationship with them. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and you're listening to Developer Tea and my goal in the show is to help driven developers connect to their career purpose so they can do better work and have a positive influence on the people around them. Perhaps one of the most uncomfortable and startling realities that we can face is when we try to make something better and everything that we try seems to make it worse. You can imagine an illustration of someone driving a car and kind of going out of control, losing control of the car, maybe they had a puddle of water and they hydroplanned and they lose control of the car. In an attempt to regain control of the car, they turn the steering wheel, but perhaps they turn it too far. The thing that they wanted to do, in fact, they've exacerbated the problem and they've gone even further away from the intended effect. Of course, this happens in the physical world, in the motor control world, but it also happens in the metaphysical, in the relational world. Sometimes the things that you wouldn't expect to work are actually the best ideas, the best plan. So we're going to talk about some of those counterintuitive things in today's episode, but first I want to lay the ground here and then we're going to discuss our sponsor. But I want to lay the framework, the psychological framework for what we're going to be discussing today. It comes down to a very simple reality. Sometimes our perception of what we should do doesn't line up with some objective reality or some measured reality. We haven't been able to test our theories of what we should do. We don't have all of the available information that we may need at any given point. Instead, we make decisions from our limited perspective. And we make those decisions with some prediction of what would happen on the other side. But the problem is that we're making them from the position that we're in, and as you're going to see, most of our shifts and thinking, most of these three tips are going to rely on thinking for the other person, thinking in the other person's shoes, not thinking for them in the sense that they aren't going to be thinking for themselves. But instead, thinking on their behalf, this is the idea of empathy, the idea that you can instead of trying to predict what someone else wants, instead try to understand what they want. Try to understand people in light of what they are struggling with, of their preferences, of things they care about, of things they value. So we're going to talk about those three practical counterintuitive things in just a moment. But first I want to talk about today's sponsor, Digital Ocean. Digital Ocean provides industry-leading service for your application. It's the easiest cloud platform to run and scale applications. They have effortless administration tools, robust compute, storage, and networking services, and they're going to give you $100 worth of credit. $100 worth of credit. This is $100 for you to use on any of their services that Digital Ocean provides. One of the things that Digital Ocean does that's a little bit different from everyone else is they have predictable costs and hourly billing. It's not going to spike. You're going to be able to predict exactly what your bill is going to be. So if you're running a startup and you're lean and you're riding the margins, then you don't have to worry about Digital Ocean suddenly spiking a bill that you can't pay and having to go and get a credit card increase or something like that. Instead, you can rely on Digital Ocean to be predictable. You also have flexible configurations sized for any application. So if you want to, again, start at that very base level for your startup. You can do that. You can respond when you need to to scale that application. I encourage you to go and check it out and get that $100 worth of credit on Digital Ocean if for no other reason you can get $100 worth of free credit. And $100 can take you quite a long way. You can imagine actually running a service on Digital Ocean networked with your other services. And you can do that essentially for free for a few months with $100 worth of credit most likely. So go and check it out. DO.CO slash TEA. That's slash T. One more time. slash TEA. Thank you again to Digital Ocean for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea. Okay, so let's get into these counterintuitive things that you can do to better your relationships with other people. And remember, we're basing this all off of the simple idea of empathy. If you take nothing else away from today's episode, if you don't have time to take notes, remember this simple idea. If you want to improve your relationships with your co-workers, think on their behalf. Cultivate empathy. Cultivate true empathy for that person. Try to put yourself in their shoes. Try to understand what they care about and why, what they value and why. And then not only trying to understand it, but trying to adopt those same values when you're making a decision, when you're acting on that person's behalf when you're trying to help them. Now, this is incredibly important for managers, by the way. If you're a manager and you're working with developers, if you're a managing engineer, for example, then it's an extremely important, really, for you to understand the motivations of your junior engineers. For example, they may feel a very heavy sense of FOMO or they may feel a very heavy sense that they're always behind. And part of your job is to understand how to help them through that sense, how to help them navigate the uncertainty that is technology, being a technical professional, being someone who works with code, there is a feeling that you're always falling behind for example. So these are the kinds of things that you need to have in your mind when you're doing your one-on-ones with junior developers as a managing developer, you need to understand what is it that these junior developers care about? Not what do I want out of them, but instead approaching it from a more sophisticated perspective, starting with what do they want out of their career? This is truly kind of the base level of good management. Now let's talk about these three counterintuitive realities, counterintuitive ways of dealing with your coworkers so you can improve your relationships with them. The first one is don't help them. Don't help them. The sounds counterintuitive because it is. It seems that if I'm always available and I'm always ready to help, then people will see me as a helpful person. But as it turns out, people actually don't want to be helped until they ask for it. Now there's the catch, right? It's not don't refuse to help another person. Instead it's don't offer your help unless it is requested. Now there are cases where this is obviously not applicable, right? If somebody is in distress, if somebody is obviously needing help but they're not willing to ask for it, if you can easily help someone without intruding and perhaps the most important piece of this is if you can come in and answer a question that's already being asked, these are the ways that you can help best. But generally speaking, people actually don't like to be helped when they are asking for it. So why is this? Oh, put yourself in their shoes. It may be partially for developers because it breaks our concentration. It may be a little bit frustrating because we already had a plan for how to approach this. But by and large, a more important factor is that when people are given help without asking for it, they may cultivate the sense. They may start to develop the sense that they are not competent. The message that is kind of not explicitly said but may develop is that I don't know how to do this on my own. I'm incapable of doing this on my own. Now this is something that we are reasonably able to identify for ourselves and then accept for ourselves. But when we don't see it coming, this creates a sense of uncertainty, right? This is something that is a little bit harder to deal with with someone else revealing to us suddenly that we are incompetent. That's a more fearful situation. This is a situation that we want to avoid. It's very uncomfortable. So don't help unless that help is requested. Tip number two. This one may be a little less counterintuitive to some of you, but go light on the detail. When you're telling a story about yourself, when you're recapping a fun weekend that you had or when you're talking about your opinions or even a problem that you're trying to help someone solve, stay light on the details. Why is this? The first and perhaps the most simple reason is people prefer simplicity. When we have something simple to digest and to understand, we are more likely to understand and comprehend that thing. The second reason to keep light on the details is because most of those details are not going to be remembered. You'll notice that what we're talking about in today's episode, we're talking a lot about unspoken or non-explicit, right? Not specific messages, nonverbal communication in the meaning of your actions, the meaning of your discussions. And so what is the meaning of someone who shares a very detailed story? When you share so many details of your own story, the person you're talking to may get the sense that you actually are more interested in yourself than you are in them. Keep the details light and then kind of the bonus, the follow up to number two is don't just keep it light and then not talk. From here on out, show your interest. Show your appreciation, your interest, your intrigue in what that person has to say. And make this genuine. People are really quite good at understanding if someone is genuine, if what they are doing is genuine or not. And so it's important that you cultivate real interest and curiosity for the people that you are communicating to, be honest with them and ask them questions, ask them about the details of their weekend. So keep light on the details. And third, and finally, the counterintuitive tip that I have to share with you today is to become less available. Become less available. This one is a little bit controversial because by no means do we mean to become difficult to communicate with. By no means am I suggesting that you turn off slack and you are impossible to reach and no one knows where you are. This is a recipe for a bad situation to occur, right? People will start resigning you for not being available. But if you become less available, what this means is that when you are available, you are fully available. The idea that we are always reachable creates this kind of homogenized situation where we are constantly receiving communication from all different types of sources. Some of that communication is very important. It requires our immediate attention. This is the kind of thing that we need to focus on. But then other parts of that communication can be way less important, right? We can open ourselves up to a lot of distraction. And so when we are constantly available to everything, then we are never fully available to anything. And so I encourage you to limit your availability, create blocks of focused time where you are not meeting with anybody where you're not collaborating where you're actually focused on your work and you're unavailable. And then have time where you are fully available. And we'd be much better for you to spend 30 minutes of fully focused, fully available time with your coworker than to spend an hour where both of you are nearby, but you're distracted. Maybe you're trying to do work at the same time as collaborating on something. Maybe you're trying to catch up on your emails or you're staring at Twitter, whatever it is, make yourself less available. And so when you are available, you'll be fully available. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode. Thank you again to Digital Ocean for sponsoring today's episode. You can get a hundred dollars worth of credit that's essentially like a one hundred dollar bill that's just waiting for you over at d o dot c o slash t e a. Everyone should be taking advantage of this because you can essentially go and set up a service or whatever you want to for that hundred dollars worth of credit right now. D o dot c o slash t e a. Thank you again to Digital Ocean. Thank you so much for listening. If you haven't yet subscribed, I encourage you before this episode ends to open your podcast app, whatever you're listening on right now and subscribe. This will ensure that you don't miss out on future episodes of Developer Tea. Thank you so much for listening and until next time, enjoy your tea.