hyThere are lots of people inside and outside tech industry who are under the impression that the job of a software developer is just to write code. And how many of us don’t leave them alone in being guilty of thinking that way?
The simple truth is, that we didn’t become programmers because we like working with people. Well, lots of us probably do or already got used to it. But, many is probably still struggling with that part of software engineer job.
If we look at it closer, it’s understandable that your average programmer would rather write a code than dive into interpersonal relationships. The code is much more deterministic and doesn’t require big amounts of empathy on your part. Human interactions aren’t as simple as 0, 1 logic.
But you ought to remember one thing: most of a software is created by teams. If you want to make a difference and be a crucial part of the team, then the simple creation of endless lines of code won’t do it. Teams are most effective when the team members collaborate effectively. And like it or not, you must communicate with others.
But how to communicate effectively?
Being good at communication, especially when it comes to complex projects, is like playing chess. Relatively easy to pick up, and difficult to master. However, there are few basic rules that will help you be a better communicator:
We should communicate and we should get our job done. To get our job done we need to communicate.
But who likes the overflowing e-mail? Or constant phone ringing? Or people dropping by every few minutes to ask for something? So be respectful of people’s time. I mean, we’re all busy and that kind of thing drives us crazy, right?
Pick the Right Medium
There are different ways of communication: face to face, e-mail, IM, phone…
One medium is not necessarily better than the other. The best choice depends pretty much on the situation. Knowing that wrong type of communication is a big productivity killer, the next time you need to communicate with someone ask yourself why you communicate, what do you want to achieve and when.
Do you need to discuss a solution?
Try to talk it over face to face, by phone or skype call. Don’t start a neverending chain of e-mails. If you know the person can’t talk right now decide together on best time when you can talk things over. Eventually document key elements of conversations afterward.
Do you need to inform people about something?
The e-mail is usually enough. Don’t call another person just to tell her the release is ready.
Do you need a quick response?
Call or write on IM. Or if you need a proof you’ve asked for something write an e-mail and then follow up.
Check the Tone
Whenever you communicate remember to be kind. Be polite. If it’s a written message check the tone: your choice of words, sentence length, punctuation, and capitalization can easily be misinterpreted without visual and auditory cues.
Check for Understanding
Communication is successful only when both the sender and the receiver understand the same information in a result of the communication. So be clear about what you would like the recipient to do next and make sure the person understands what do you need, when and why.
The purpose of communication is to get your message across to others clearly and unambiguously to reach an understanding. When we communicate ineffectively, one email can turn into a 10-email chain plus a meeting with too many participants – or worse, something gets missed or done incorrectly, and then we end up in a rework land.