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3 Ways to Better Cultivate Coworker Connections

Published 4/18/2018

This week we're talking about practical things and today we're talking about 3 psychological realities that can help you connect better with your coworkers.

Today's episode is sponsored by Linode.

In 2018, Linode is joining forces with Developer Tea listeners by offering you $20 of credit - that's 4 months of FREE service on the 1GB tier - for free! Head over to https://spec.fm/linode and use the code DEVELOPERTEA2018 at checkout.

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
This week we're talking about practical things on the show. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and you're listening to Developer Tea. My goal on the show is to help driven developers find their career purpose and connect to it so they can do better work and have positive influence on the people around them. In today's episode we are talking about three ways, three psychological realities that will help you connect better to your co-workers, three ways to connect better to your co-workers. And this is something that you have to approach with the right concept of mind. We're going to talk about that for a moment before we jump into the three ways. The reality is people have very good intuition when somebody is trying to take advantage of them. They know when you are being genuine and when you are just putting on a show. When you're trying to use this episode as you know a life hack, for example, to try to climb the corporate ladder or somehow trick somebody into liking you, it just simply won't work. You have to start by cultivating a real kindness and caring for your co-workers and the people around you. You can't influence people by faking it because we have very complex minds but one of the things our minds have been evolved to do over thousands and thousands of years is to recognize threats. And one of the ways that other people threaten us is if they are telling us something that isn't true. And so we're pretty good at recognizing when somebody isn't being truthful even though we don't necessarily know why. So to begin with the most important thing you can do to cultivate positive relationships with your co-workers is to actually want positive relationships with your co-workers. If you don't want positive relationships with your co-workers you should consider why first. Why is it that you don't actually want them? You just want the benefits of them. Ultimately this comes down to an ego problem for most people and sometimes it comes down to a kind of a happiness issue that you aren't really necessarily happy with your job or you're not really necessarily happy with the people you work with. And so finding out what are those internal motivations for why you care to better your relationships? What is that internal piece that is going to cause this to go wrong? Now on the flip side very often we're also wrong about other people's intentions. This is why relationships very often go sideways even though the people really do want the relationship to succeed. They really do care about the other person and the other person's well-being for that matter. Usually this happens as a result of a communications problem or misreading the other person or focusing on ourselves too much. So that's what we're going to be talking about in today's episode. Once you have already cultivated a true and real authentic desire to build relationship with other people then you can apply these three concepts to better your relationships from a practical communication oriented and psychology oriented perspective. You can better adjust your outward expression of an inward reality. Now that's the key factor for this this preface. The inward reality needs to adjust first and then you can work on these outward expressions. You can start working on behavioral patterns and ways of connecting with people better based on real science based on real psychology and the way that our brains operate. So if you haven't cultivated that inner perspective that inner desire to connect with other people and a true hope for their positive well-being for their positive outcome for the other people that you work with first start there. There's a lot of ways that you can do this. The introspection side of this is important writing down how you feel understanding how and why you feel the way you do about your coworkers recognizing if maybe this is a deep internalized problem or maybe it's just something surface level. Maybe there are conflicts that you need to resolve that you haven't resolved yet. Now that goes well beyond the scope of this episode. I encourage you to talk to somebody who can mediate more professionally than I can but make sure you recognize and understand your kind of posture and how you are relating with your coworkers first. And then once you have that well-being, that kindness perspective kind of deeply embedded inside of you then approach this episode with that new fresh kind of fresh take. So we're going to talk about three ways to connect to your coworkers better right after we talk about today's awesome sponsor Linode. Linode is providing you with excellent service and state-of-the-art Linux in the cloud with just a few clicks. You can get launched in just a few clicks. You select your distribution which is basically your favorite flavor of Linux. You select your node location based on most likely based on latency right who's going to be consuming the service that you're launching on this particular Linux box. And then finally your resources. How big of a Linux box do you want to launch in the Linode cloud? And Linode has so many options for this but they make it simple for you and they provide excellent service customer service to you because they are Developer Too. Now if you don't want to focus on dev ops for your business, Linode even has people to handle that for you. Professional development operation services that you can go and check out. Linode cares about developers because they are developers. I encourage you to go and check out what Linode has to offer by heading over to spec.fm slash Linode. You can get started today and you'll get $20 worth of credit just for being a Developer Tea listener. This is another way that Linode invests in developers. Spec.fm slash Linode use the code Developer Tea2018. That's all one word with the numbers. 2018 Developer Tea2018 at checkout to get that $20 worth of credit. Thank you again to Linode for sponsoring today's episode. So we're talking about ways of connecting with your co-workers and we've already covered the fact that people are good at detecting when someone is trying to manipulate them. When somebody is trying to take advantage of them, to lie to them or to patronize them for example. This is something that we're intuitively good at and we may not be able to put our finger on it perfectly but we know kind of in our gut and I know the show we tend to stray away from talking about things that aren't an exact or aren't provable but overall humans have developed this ability. This is kind of a fast thinking ability to recognize when somebody is kind of trying to convince us to do something that we don't necessarily want to do. So I put about five minutes worth of caution into this episode because I don't want people listening to this and trying to take away these ways of shoe-warning people into behaving or being something that they want them to be and that really goes into our first way of connecting with another person and that is to actually empower them to be the person that they want to be. This sounds like a really big task. It sounds like more than just a single recommendation but really this comes down to a very simple reality. People want to maintain their image of themselves. This is called continuity. We want to continue believing that we are following our correct path that we know who we are, that we know what we want to be and that we want to connect with people who will empower that image of ourselves so people who will encourage our continuity. Even when we have people who challenge us, the people who challenge us in the best way are going to be those who challenge us because they want us to achieve the same things that we want to achieve. This starts with understanding who a person believes they are and more importantly, who they aspire to be. They are perfect picture of themselves. Understanding what somebody wants out of life and this may come as a result of multiple interactions with the person that may come through directly asking that person, who is it that you want to be? What do you aspire to? What kinds of things do you want out of your life? What is your career purpose? We talk about that on the show quite a bit. Asking another person what their career purpose is can give you a lot of insight into what they want their life to look like. If you come out of the gate when you're making a relationship with another person, trying to empower them to be the person that they aspire to be, even if it's a small nudge or encouragement in that direction, validation of their efforts, that's going to be much more effective than if you don't know who they want to be at all. If you just make small talk, for example, or if you present something as very important to them that they don't really think is very important at all. Understand the self-image and the aspirations of the people that you want to connect with at an individual level. Usually, these aspirations go beyond just a simple job title. They go beyond a skill acquisition. It is more about the values, the deeper underlying kind of eternal pursuit for that person rather than this one particular goal. Now, it may be expressed in specific goals, but identifying what people believe about themselves, their archetypes, their personalities. This can go a very long way to connecting with them and really making a positive relationship that benefits both sides. The second tip that I'm going to give you is a little bit tricky because it's a two-part tip. That is to increase someone else's agency, their ability to choose while also making decisions, being decisive. How can you do both at the same time? First, let's talk about why each of these are important. Agency is important. This is kind of similar to autonomy, but agency is important because people want to be able to make choices. This gives them the feeling and this needs to be authentically true, but this gives people the feeling that they are invested in an outcome. When you are working with other people, it's important that not one person is actually driving every single outcome. It's also equally important that everyone is decisive in the group. If you are making some decisions and another person is making some decisions, that's much better than if you are making no decisions or if you are making all of the decisions. When you are collaborating with another person, it is possible to both be decisive and lend agency to the other person to be decisive simultaneously. For example, let's say that you need to make a decision about what language or what framework to use on a particular project. This is a contrived example, but if one person is in charge of narrowing down the frameworks, and another person is in charge of identifying the technical constraints of the project, and then both people collaboratively come together and make a decision about what to use, this is a much better option than one person calling all the shots. This is very important. It's very important to strike this balance, and it's also very important to specifically identify that each person has agency. In other words, using language like I want you to make this particular choice to make this call. This reminds people of their agency, and it reminds them that what they contribute is valuable. Now, here's where this can go wrong. If you overwhelm somebody with agency in an area where they feel unconfident, or if you overwhelm them with agency in an area of minutia, the chores, only the chores. Both of these ends of the spectrum are not going to induce any kind of flow state, for example. Flow state relies on being at the edge of your ability, where it's just challenging enough that it's keeping you engaged and energized, but not so challenging that it is debilitating. We want to encourage other people to be in that flow state. Providing agency inside of that flow state is really the goal here. This is complex. It's something that's going to take a long time to understand, and it's personal. Each person has a different competency level and a different interest level in an area where you may give agency. But we didn't say any of this was going to be easy. This is really kind of the whole point of relationships to help create the right mix and configure people's responsibilities around a given project. So in a professional relationship and a working collaborative relationship, getting this mix correct is of utmost importance. So it's important that you pay attention to it and even explicitly identify what you're doing. Explicitly identify the fact that you want everyone to be providing the right level of input in the things that they're most interested in and most challenged by. This is especially true and especially important for engineering managers or any kind of management position, any kind of leadership position, team leads, agile coaches, those kinds of people. They are especially responsible for creating this balance or helping to encourage this balance. This last recommendation may sound pretty simple because, well, it kind of is. And that is to use people's names. Know their names and know how to spell it. But it's not just about names, although names are particularly important. Recognizing the humanity of another person. Recognizing that they have their own life, that they are living as kind of the protagonist of their story and treating their story as important. Remember that for the movie of their life, you're not necessarily going to be there for the beginning, the middle, and the end. For their story, for the things they care about, no one will care about it as much as they do. But if you care about it, just a little bit more than the next person. If you actually cultivate a true and honest, detailed, oriented caring for those people that you want to connect with better, if you connect even 1% better than the next person, you will stand out. And that starts with knowing their name or knowing their friend's name, remembering the stories that they tell, remembering their birthdays or their anniversaries, remembering their work anniversary, remembering the things that they're interested in. And not in a surface level way, but actually paying attention and treating them like you would a true friend. This sounds incredibly obvious, but as it turns out, remembering names and remembering birthdays requires a little bit of work. Sometimes it means actually adding something to your calendar. Sometimes it means setting aside five minutes in your day to talk or send a message, send an email that is personal. Remember, everyone is within their own context. They're in their own perception. They have their own troubles. They have their own frustrations. They have their own perspectives. They have their own beliefs and values. They have their own joys and excitement. They have their own story. And if you want to connect to that story, you have to care about it. You have to understand it more than you do today. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. Hopefully, you realize now that building relationships really is about caring about other people. It's important to cultivate that care genuinely and from the inside out. Thank you so much for listening. Thank you again to Linode for sponsoring today's episode. You can get $20 worth of credit from Linode by heading over to spec.fm slash Linode and using the code Developer Tea2018 and checkout. Thank you again for listening. If you are enjoying today's episode of Developer Tea and if you are feeling like you want to give back just a few minutes of your time, then you have two ways that you can do that. You can choose. The first way is to leave a rating and review in iTunes. This is hugely helpful and it kind of covers the basis because other developers can go and find the show as a result of that rating and review. The other way is to actually share this with another developer or it doesn't really even have to be a developer. Someone that you believe will benefit from this show. If someone happens to send you this, it's because they thought about you at a personal level and they believed that you would benefit from this episode. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time, enjoy your tea.