Some Tips on Improving your Social Skills (for Software Devs)

After 7 hours heads down working on code the last thing I want to do is talk to someone. In fact, I’m probably so in the zone by that point I’d likely go on to code for another 1-5 hours before calling it a day.

Writing code is what I’ve built my life around. The reality is most days I get a lot of emails, messages to reply to, and I have meetings to attend. So, even though I’m around code a lot and I love that, I’m also working with people constantly. The better you work with people the more value you add and the more indispensable you become.

One way to socialize with people is to get to know a little about everyone you work with. Memorize at least one thing each person is passionate about. All you have to do is bring it up and they will be happy to take over the conversation and tell you more about it.

Don’t waste time gossiping or bitching about work. Be the person who stays positive, or at least stays focused. It is okay to share about your interests outside of work. In fact that would be normal. The way you want to be abnormal is to talk about ideas regularly, events rarely, and people least of all or never.

Another good social skill is going out to lunch with people. At lunch, don’t bring up anything negative, don’t complain about work, don’t talk about office politics. Just talk about things that excite you. Mainly sit there and listen to what others have to say. Make eye contact while listening. In relation to what they are saying, it is okay to be interested or even offer support. Just make sure to they know your individual focus (writing great code, getting in the zone, getting the API launched, etc) so you are not seen as a threat.

Choose your mode of communication wisely. The modes are basically chat, email, phone, and in person.  Don’t write long emails, nobody reads those. Phone calls are great to cover complex issues that require a lot of back and forth.  The pen is mightier than the sword, so if you are the one who gets to summarize and send out notes from a meeting, that is a pretty good place to be. To rope in difficult people, one idea is to type up a summary email after a conversation and cc your boss.

You may argue, ‘screw everybody, I’d rather just code’.  If you isolate yourself at work, you better be extremely sharp technically because that is all you are bringing to the table. Maybe that will be enough for a career? Given how fast technology changes, you’ll need to be learning like crazy on your own time to stay ahead.

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