In today's episode, we discuss two tools that I believe will change your closest relationships forever.
It can be awkward to intentionally work on communication with your closest relationships. But if you employ these tools, you're nearly guaranteed to see an improvement in your relationships. This isn't a gimmick or a hack; it's the hard work of communicating clearly with another human being.
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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
In today's episode, I'm going to give you two tools for improving your closest relationships. We're going to talk about how these tools should be used. My name is Jonathan Cutrell, you're listening to Developer Tea. My goal on this show is to help driven developers like you find clarity, perspective, and purpose in their careers. If you've ever had a close relationship, you know that communication in those close relationships can sometimes become difficult, even when you are deeply connected to this person. And when I say close relationships, we're absolutely including your work relationships. This is especially true between you and a close manager or you and a close peer. Maybe somebody who is your, you know, your counterpart on a team. And it's true in our personal relationships, our significant others, our children, our close friends, all of these relationships. At some point, we will have a breakdown in communication. And part of what makes this difficult is the presupposition, the assumption that because we are close, we have figured out communication. Because we are close, we understand each other. We know what the other means whenever they say something. We know what the other person would want in a given scenario. But if you've ever actually experienced this, especially if you've ever experienced a shock to these assumptions, you know that you can have years-long relationships with your closest friends, your closest coworkers, your closest romantic interests, whoever it is. You're going to have years-long relationships and then suddenly have your expectations or your assumptions turned completely upside down. And it can be about very small things or it can be about very important, very big things. And part of the reason that this happens is because we assume that we know so much about that person, we rarely take the time to practice the fundamental parts of our relationship. To practice that communication back and forth. To put in the time and the effort to improve our communication. So if you're like me and at the end of the year, you're looking at ways of improving every aspect of your life, one aspect that I highly recommend that you take extra time and extra care to think about is your closest relationships. So I'm going to give you two tools for improving your closest relationships. But I want you to take a moment right now or whenever you can, you pause this podcast until you can do this. Take a moment and write down your three most important or closest relationships in your life. And if you have four that you want to write down, whatever, this is a flexible exercise. It doesn't really matter how many you have, but three is a good number. Don't focus on just one because the answers to these things are going to interact with each other. The way that this exercise is going to work, you're going to get a field of different answers and a field of different discussion points from these different individuals. And it's your job, part of the exercise, is to find out how they interact with each other, what are the commonalities, etc. This first tool is going to be controversial, no matter who you talk to about it, because it has been abused. This way of communicating has been abused. We're going to talk about how it's been abused and how to avoid that. But the basis of this tool is sound. The tool is very simple. I first heard about this particular tool a few years ago on a podcast that I don't recall what it was exactly. And it certainly isn't a novel idea from the podcast itself. The tool is called Rose, a Thorn, and a Bud. But on the podcast, the person talking about this exercise changed it to be three roses, a Thorn, and a Bud. Now what are we talking about with roses, thorns, and buds? Three roses would be three things that you appreciate, three things that are positive. These are reflections, something that has come about in some way that you are thankful for. Right, so these are things that you appreciate that you view positively. When we're using this to improve our relationships, these are three things that you appreciate about the person that you're talking to. The size of the rose does not matter. This is very important to understand, because it may feel like you're running out of things to appreciate. But the truth is, even the smallest things that somebody does that you appreciate can be noticed out loud. All right, so three roses, a Thorn is something that is uncomfortable for you. Right, or it's somehow as difficult or painful for you. Now you're not necessarily asking this person to change that Thorn, but rather that they become aware of it. The reason you wouldn't ask them to change a Thorn is because rose bushes have thorns. This is kind of the point of the exercise, right? Just make them aware if they're not aware that this is a Thorn for you. And then finally, a bud is something that you look forward to, something that you anticipate in the future. This tool is really incredible for a couple of reasons. First, the weighting of using three positive things, and actually arguably four positive things, if you include the bud, is consistent with science, consistent with, especially psychology science, about how we receive feedback and messaging from other people. If we were to receive in equal parts, positive and negative messages, then we're very likely to focus hyper focus on the negative. We weight that negative much more than we would weight the positive. So by focusing on more positive things, you are creating kind of a biasing against the bias. You're not necessarily removing that bias of focusing on the negative, but you are working to kind of cancel it out. The second thing that makes this particular exercise really powerful is that it doesn't hold back on sharing some kind of negative feedback. This is not necessarily feedback that you're intending to change. This is something that you are sharing from your perspective. This is not a feedback tool that I would recommend for managers that are trying to grow a direct report. This is much more about your experience in the relationship that you have with those people. Finally, what I really like about this particular exercise in addition to what we've already mentioned is that it does provide some kind of forward thinking. Instead of just ending on a retrospective note, we're also anticipating something together. This is important because if we don't communicate what we're anticipating in the future, we may not be able to prepare ourselves for making whatever those future events are as positive and rewarding as possible. We may not realize how important an upcoming event is to someone in that close relationship with us. We do want to take a moment and talk specifically about how this kind of mechanism is abused. This should be differentiated from the crap sandwich, and we're using modified language so we don't have to put the explicit tag on this particular episode. The crap sandwich, the idea of this is that you have two pieces of positive information, whatever they are, but those are just fluff to contain the middle, which is the negative. The point of the three roses, a thorn and a bud, is not to contain the thorn in some kind of fluffy information. Remember the goal here is to focus on your side of the experience. The thorn is painful for you. It's not necessarily something that should be changed. With that said, once you do communicate this, you and the person that is in this close relationship with you can strategize ways to deal with that particular thorn. Maybe there are ways that you can communicate differently. Maybe there are ways that you can work around it. Keep in mind that sometimes this particular exercise is practiced with no thorns to provide. There's nothing necessarily that you want to share as a thorn. The way that you avoid turning this three roses, a thorn and a bud into the crap sandwich, is by doing it on a regular basis, a scheduled basis. This could be during your one-on-ones if you're doing this with your manager. This could be something that you do over a meal. You can change the terminology if there's something that feels socially awkward about calling it a rose versus something else. If your culture has a romantic connotation with roses, then it may not necessarily feel appropriate to bring that into the workplace. The same basic structure can be applied no matter what you call this. Once again, it's to wait the positive things that you've experienced recently at a higher rate. You're doing more of those at a factor that is significant, like four to one, and to provide an outlet for sharing from your experience. This tool is incredibly powerful and it's very insightful. Again, of course, hopefully this is obvious, but both sides would probably be very, very polite to provide their three thorns, their roses, the thorn and a bud. We're going to take a quick sponsor break and then I'm going to come back and talk about the other tool that I think could totally change your close relationships. Developer Tea is supported by Launch Darkly. We're going to go a little bit off script today. I'm just going to kind of talk about the importance of what Launch Darkly provides to your workflow. You probably have features that are in the works right now that you want to test out. You've probably written tests. You tried to make sure that everything was buttoned up, but the truth is, and you know this, if you've had any experience launching features to a user base, you know that the bugs that matter are the ones that the user's experience, not the ones that you're testing, find. So in order to find those bugs early, it makes sense to try to release this code, these features to a select group of users. There's also plenty of other times when you might want two users to see completely different things when they land on the same page in your app. How would you accomplish this? Well, a lot of people try to figure this out on their own and they end up adding a bunch of extra fields to their user table or, you know, in the best case, they try to build their own feature flag solution. But Launch Darkly has figured this out for you. Launch Darkly provides feature flags, but essentially on steroids. These are feature flags that you can rely on. They're not going to fall apart. The logic of the feature flags is not going to screw up. It's going to be highly available in a live kind of real time streaming manner. In other words, it's not going to get stuck in the loop of your server problems. The performance issues are no longer an issue with Launch Darkly. You can get started for free today by heading to launchdarkly.com. Thanks again to Launch Darkly for their support of Developer Tea. We've talked about three roses, a thorn and a bud. That is the first tool that I wanted to provide to you as you find ways of improving your closest relationships. By the way, you're going to take these tools and go and introduce them to those close relationships. We'll talk a little bit more about that in a moment. The second tool I want to provide you is a very simple framework. You can use this especially in your one-on-ones. This would be a very good thing to do, maybe buy weekly or even on a monthly basis. It may not make sense to do it on a weekly basis necessarily. If you're doing weekly one-on-ones, that might be a little bit much for this. It's a very simple set of questions. They're so simple that you can probably memorize this. In the same way that you can probably memorize the three roses that thorn in the bud. The questions are very simple. They go like this. What should I keep on doing? What is one thing I should keep on doing? What is one thing that I should start doing? What is one thing that I should stop doing? What's something I should continue doing? What is something that I should start doing and what is something I should stop doing? This set of questions covers some very important ground that is often missed in the average one-on-one. This is especially true because people have a tendency to provide feedback and only one of these categories, or maybe in two of these categories. Very often we might receive feedback that just tells us that we need to stop doing something. Another piece of feedback we very often might receive is that we need to start doing something or we need to change something that we're already doing. We need to start doing something a little differently. We might receive feedback only about, if we're lucky we might receive feedback about things that we need to continue doing, but often this one is left out entirely. By asking these questions you might uncover something that is not necessarily intuitive from the other person. What is something I should keep doing? What is something I should start doing? What is something that I need to stop doing? We should clarify how this particular exercise is supposed to work. It's very unlikely that you're going to come away from this exercise with a list of three things. It's possible depending on what kind of manager you have, what personality you're dealing with. Most of the time what this does is it starts a discussion because the truth is a few things actually fit cleanly into these categories. It's not necessarily that you need to stop doing something, but maybe you need to change the way that you're doing it or maybe you need to change the timing in how you're doing it. Maybe it's not that you need to start something, but that you need to be aware of something. So that you can prepare for it. Use these questions not as a way of gathering those three items, but rather as a way of starting the right kinds of conversations and the right kind of thinking. Remember that with both of these exercises, the things that you receive are going to be on a spectrum. You're going to get both positive and negative feedback. And speaking of positive and negative, this particular exercise may feel almost all negative. In fact, it has two things that seem somewhat negative. I'm forgetting to do something and you're telling me I need to start doing it or I'm doing something wrong and you're telling me I need to stop doing it. So it's important when you do this particular exercise that you focus on your strengths based on my strengths, what should I stop doing? What this does is it focuses you on stopping doing things that you're not very good at doing. Instead of saying you're doing something wrong or you're doing something that is inherently negative, you're focusing instead on what is the best use of my time. This is a less negative spin on the same information. Okay, so the exercise here, these two tools, I want you to take these tools to that list of three people. And in whatever your best format is, maybe it's at the next dinner that you have with that close friend or maybe at your next one on one or you plan out a one on one, maybe at the beginning of next year, whatever is most suitable for your patterns together, that's how you introduce these things. Have them listen to this episode if they're open to that idea and preface that you're likely going to take notes that you're going to be kind of cross referencing this information with feedback that you're getting from other people and that you're trying to improve. Your goal is not to somehow find a way to sneak in negative feedback that this is mostly for you to receive the information you need to receive to improve both yourself and more critically your relationship with that person. Thanks so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. Thank you. Again, to today's sponsor, Launch Darkly, you can get started with enterprise grade feature flags for free today at launchdarkly.com. 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