Interacting With People

Recently, as with many of life’s lessons, I’ve noticed a trend in my life of being confronted with an opportunity to improve on an area I know I personally can struggle with: interacting with people.

People just don’t make sense to me. I don’t really enjoy being super social, but I can be friendly. I can also genuinely love people, albeit cautiously. At my new job, after 6 months of being confused on how to interact, I decided to take a step back and just observe how everyone else did it. And I am learning a ton so I wanted to analyze what I’m learning and write it down to reference these lessons when I need to improve my people skills 🙂

The first lesson I am learning is that communication is a large hurdle for almost everyone. For engineers, that hurdle is more like a mountain. The biggest mountain. A mountain that is also a volcano…a violent and moody one 🙂 Is that descriptive enough? Are we all on the same page? Engineers suck at communication. Mostly because we put all of our communication on paper in the form of numbers and drawings…and I think we tend to treat and talk to people the same way. Precise, simple, and to the point. (In the real world we call this rude…btw). There are two major problems with this that I have begun to notice, and these problems are applicable to life outside of my workplace.

The first problem is that most of the time what we think is crystal clear and completely understandable is actually vague and may make very little sense to the person you are conveying the information to. Especially because we tend to forget they don’t have the context that is up in our heads, that goes along with the information we are feeding to them. When they take that information, if they even can, and do what they think you are asking of them they generally will either not do it right or get frustrated with their lack of understanding and not do it at all. Then with both people frustrated, and incapable of communicating their frustrations, you end up with a toe to toe situation.

Which leads into the other problem of how we tend to interact to each other. There is a tone. Ray calls it “The Tone”, but it’s a tone of voice. An edge. It is slightly condescending, and insinuates that what you are saying is an insult even if it doesn’t sound like one. In the professional world, especially in my industry of engineers, this tone flies around in abundance. I hear it all around me, I’ve been on the receiving end of it, and I’ve listened to it being used in reference to a person that was not there to even defend themselves. I don’t understand it because when it is used a line is being drawn in the sand. You are placing yourself and the person you are talking to/about on opposite sides of that line. This line makes it almost impossible to interact with each other and inhibits any type of team effort.

While it seems a simple concept, it appears to me that people in these situations forget that they are relying on each other to get their goal accomplished. Specifically to get a quality project out the door, on time, and 100% accurate. Logic would tell you that if you need someone’s help, the last thing you should probably do is not treat that person very well. Right? If you need someone to do something in a timely manner it would benefit you to communicate as accurately as possible while also thanking them for their efforts. At the very base “treat people as you wish to be treated”. Ah…kindergarten…

The point is, when there is a common goal, there has to be a common respect. There has to be someone heading the effort who is 100% capable of communicating the goals. Communicating the feedback. Delivering and receiving the constructive criticism. Someone hedging all ‘gossip’ and non-constructive behavior. And that ‘someone’ at any point in any given time can be any one of us. We should ALL be capable of communicating, without tension, without rudeness, with complete clarity.

And if we can’t, we have to have the ability to stop the breakdown before it gets out of control and regroup. We have to have the ability to apologize at the lack of communication or the creation of a misunderstanding. We have to be capable of leading by example and being humble enough to stand down in a stalemate.

In the workplace, in life, in relationships, in friendships, and even in your relationship with our Savior. Interacting with others is so very important. It’s an art. And we should all be working to be fantastic at it so that we may promote a life sans tension and stress!


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