Minnebar: Bex Huff on Communication for Geeks

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Bex Huff spoke on the subject of Communication for Geeks in a opening session at Minnebar.

The majority of software projects fail, and communication breakdowns are responsible for a large share of the failures.

He explained that people are tied to survival instincts, so self-preservation is an underlying issue that influences decisions for better or worse.

He suggests that tapping into what makes you angry in development situations will help you understand how to communicate with people.

Don’t rely on one set of tactics for solving problems. Empathy will allow you to more easily communicate with more types of people.

Huff recommends trying to connect with yourself to decide what type of work environment you want to foster. Do you want to be a grumpy developer or someone who works in a fun, educational, environment? A tactic to provide clarity about your emotions is to test yourself using the following sentence:

“When I ___(action)___, I feel (feeling)___, because I need ___(need)___.”

When you bring up a problem, the most common reaction from people will be Fight or Flight. Be prepared for this, and try to be empathetic to their situation. If you can’t be empathetic, you’ll have a hard time getting your issues across.

Telling people what to do before they’ve had a chance to vent their frustrations sets you up for a backlash. Let people vent before providing solutions even if the solution is immediately obvious to you.

Make requests in the form of shared goals. Huff explains that this is much more effective than demands where people may comply, but only grudgingly.

In group situations, be clear about what you want back, and from whom.

Compliments: No different than manipulation. Try to focus on legitimate gratitude.

“When I see you ___(action)___, I feel (feeling)___, because it helps meet my need for ___(need)___.”

Huff’s Takeaway: Empathy B4 Education

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