I‘ve been thinking about communication a lot lately. I’m not going to claim I‘m good at communicating. Honestly, I think I’m pretty bad at it. But I‘m trying to get better. That’s why I started this blog in the first place after all.
Lately I‘ve been trying to grow a bit professionally. I realize that as one person, there’s only so much code I can write and only so much I can do if I‘m going against the grain. If I want to make a bigger impact, I need to put in the work to convince others that my ideas are worthwhile. I may need to spend more time and energy on this than actually coding. And I’m okay with that on some level.
I‘ve always been fairly progressive as a developer. I’m interested in new and better ways to do things. That‘s been quite valuable in the past when I can get new concepts or tools in soon enough. But to do that on a project of any size, I have to convince others I code with that new technology is worthwhile, and that’s nearly impossible when you can't get people to listen to your message.
I run into problems all the time. A lot of times I don‘t feel like I’m being heard. Sometimes I try to say one thing and I think I‘m being clear as day, but then from people’s reactions I realize they interpreted my words to mean almost the opposite of what I was arguing for.
It‘s often too much for me and I don’t bother putting the energy into it. I tend to be quiet and I like spending time alone figuring things out. If I‘m feeling like I don’t have the energy to push and be assertive, I'll often go dark and work on things by myself.
Here‘s what’s been in the back of my mind:
At what point do you give up on a line of communication?
When do you just let it go and accept the status quo for what it is? And when do you keep pushing because you know there‘s room for improvement? I feel like I’ve gone to both extremes at different times. And they both suck.
It seems like some people I can instantly click with we can understand each other. Others I can exchange ideas with after some back and forth where we come to an understanding. It's rough, but it works.
And then the rare few, not only don‘t understand the words I’m saying, but it gets worse: they take my words to mean things I never intended. They assume there is a hidden meaning or motive behind my actions.
I‘ll try to clarify and rephrase as politely as I can, but it feels like they are on a different level than I am. They have a different set of information and they aren’t willing to share enough of that information for me to get to their level. They'll make assumptions and jump to conclusions that baffle me.
In one or two of these cases, looking back, it‘s pretty obvious they did have an agenda of their own and wanted me out of the way. I hope that hasn’t been the case every time, otherwise I've wasted a lot of energy for nothing.
Like anyone I get frustrated
Sometimes I get terse. When I‘m tired I give up and go quiet. I’m sick of that. I have a lot I want to get done and changes I want to make and I'm tired of the uphill battles. I need my message to get through and I start to not care if it is clean or polite anymore.
Then I get frustrated and misread messages because I assume they misunderstood what I was trying to say. At that point I feel like a jerk, so I try to stop myself before it gets to that. The whole thing saps any energy I did have for making improvements.
Thanks internet, for letting me rant for a while…