As an engineer I find it relatively easy to absorb large amounts of technical material. Books that would put other people to sleep keep me awake and reveal technical secrets that allow me to craft great systems and work a profitable, satisfying career. But like other engineers, while I find my self doubling up on technical material and glazing over “soft skills”
One of those skills is how to win people to your cause. How to Win Friends and Influence People is a classic text by Dale Carnegie that gives a variety of anecdotes and simple advice to improve interpersonal relationships. This posts serves as a condensed collection of some of the points that rang most clear to my own heart and experience.
“If you want to gather honey, don’t kick over the beehive”
“Criticism is futile because it puts a person on the defensive and usually makes him strive to justify himself. Criticism is dangerous, because it wounds a person’s precious pride, hurts his sense of importance, and arouses resentment.”
As a programmer I must at times be maniacally concerned with the correctness of my work. Mistakes large and small can cause software to crash and people to be unhappy with my creation. But this same attention to detail can’t carry over into relationships. As the old cliche goes, one has to “pick your battles”. It is critical to let some things go. We forget that someone was once patient with us and waited and coached us through our mistakes. There was a time in each of our lives where we struggled to speak, write and read. Why should other moments in our life not follow the same pattern?
“I don’t see how I could have done any differently from what I have.”
I have heard variations of this statement time and time again. My first impulse is anger, “How could you not know?” But if we step back for a moment, we can consider that this very well could be the case. Perhaps the individual really did try their best with the information at hand. With this understanding we can move past the problem and consider the solution. What information can be added to prevent future problems? Problems are obvious. Hang around most young children for an extended period of time. They will eventually call out obvious problems like being bored, tired or hungry. As adults we are often experiencing the same things, we are just not screaming about it while rolling on the floor. Solutions on the other hand are more difficult. A person that can focus on the solution will be a valuable ally. Be that person.
“When dealing with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bristling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity”
This statement perhaps highlights the greatest challenge that engineers face in being effective communicators: People have emotions. Logic is simply not enough to convey the message.
“Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be under-standing and forgiving.”
To Be Continued….