At this end of year I would like to mix a little bit IT and some Christian teachings. It is not unusual, Donald Knuth on the book Things a Computer Scientist Rarely Talks About do an experience on the 3:16 versicle of the Bible.
Christian Bible talks about how God created the world using only His Words.
As humans, we use words too, of course, to talk, to transmit ideas and sometimes to change others behavior.
As IT People we develop programs with specific objectives that will run inside a computer.(or more)
If we create a metaphor and suppose we are like computers (in some way we are organic computers), we are somehow running code in our mind (in a different programming language in another paradigm). Code that can change itself or develop new code taking current statements. (Yes, this is possible now in several languages, like prolog, list, and even popular languages like C# where it is possible to “emit” code).
When we, as people, are talking to each other, we are “putting” code inside the other person, hoping it will change something inside him/her.
If she is a girl that we are trying to conquer, we create a program that will try to create a sense of good impression inside her, and try to hacker her in a way we touch the right place so she can start to be in love with us. There are books, tips, friends, all of it trying to teach us how to create a program like that.
A salesman tries to create programs to convince the others to accept his arguments, and buy his products. There are a lot of hacks about this, books, courses, seminars, etc., about hacking “persons” to force them to say yes!
Every day we are trying to hack the other person with our language.
Politicians are master hackers, with great programs, to hack several people at same time, with statements that can unify a group of people and push them to the same idea!
There are even NLP, the discipline that teaches to hack ourselves and hack the others! And, look to the name “Neuro-Linguistic Programming”
You got the picture!
Moral of this
One of the most important things a person should be careful is the tongue in our mouth because it is the keyboard that writes the program that will be inserted on the other person, and is capable of great and wonderful things and capable of really bad things, as we all know.
Every time you will be talking to someone, remember, you are inserting a program on the other person. Try to be constructive, something that brings value, and not something destructive, because there are people that have great security measures and knows how to defend from hacking, but others don’t, and this can be very destructive for their lives. Depressions, bad decisions, and others, very well know consequences of this.
“Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.” James 3:5
Have a great new year!
Office games is a thing in all jobs. All the time, intentionally or not, it is something being played. If you are in a game, and you don’t know the rules or even that you are playing it, you will loose it for sure.
The most important think in every office games it’s the leverage. Many people think its fairness, but it’s not. Life isn’t fair, maybe the “time” will make it fair in the long term, but for the job, most of the times it’s too late.
People aren’t on the job to be fair, they are for their personal reasons, money, success, satisfaction, recognition, power, etc. If you are an obstacle for them, they will defend their goals as they can, and usually not being fair.
The excellent Netflix series “House of Cards” is an example of managing “leverage”. There is a passage from Frank Underwood, the master of creating leverage when he is talking with the president:
“Do I think she oversteps sometimes? Yes. Does she wrongly equate her advice with mine? Often. But the question that occurs to me is not about Linda. Let’s say you refuse her resignation if this gets out, and it could, won’t you be sending a signal to anyone who works for you that you can be leveraged? “
So, learn the game, learn the rules, play it!
Here some tips to get leverage:
- Have something the other person needs
- Have more authority.
- Try to have a positive attitude
- Try to be “cold”. Don’t be too emotional.
- Have skills hard to be replaced
- Have a good reputation
- Try to have something that only you can provide
- Build a network of empathy and cooperative attitude with the others.
Yes, these are things we all know from working, but are we developing them as much as we are developing our hard skills?
One of the definitions of Leverage
“The ability to influence a system, or an environment, in a way that multiplies the outcome of one’s efforts without a corresponding increase in the consumption of resources.” (from the BusinessDictionary)
When I finish my computer science course in university, after some time working in big companies, I realized that I was somehow prepared for the technical challenges, but I didn’t know how to work socially in the companies. One thing is to know how doing the technical work, another is about working with people. And the issues, are always about people, how to influence, persuade, office games, power control games, silence wars, etc.. It’s a very different role than the technical one, but it is the one that makes you grow in the company. Even if you are a tech lover, you must get soft skills.
I am not trying to give a pessimistic vision of the work, actually I am working in a quite good work environment, but this is how these things are, because people like to grow in the company, they like to feel safe, but for that, they start a “fight” with their colleagues, they try to know their intentions and act accordingly considering their own intentions (sometimes it’s not a conscious intention, it is just us: humans!). You can observe these moves around you if you try.
In this post I just want to give you a small piece of soft skills, improving your way of managing your verbal and written argumentation, in a way that will improve the quality of your arguments, in a constructive way, so the work and personal environment around you will be better. And when people feel good around you, it’s a good thing for you in every way.
There are a lot of argumentation tools (really a lot), but today I only want to write about one of my favorites: The Tense.
When you are in a conversation, or just hearing someone on a TV show or movie, the speech is always in one of 3 tenses:
Obvious! But it tells you a lot, even without knowing what is being said! (It is a kind of nonverbal language in the verbal language)
Whey are they important?
A conversation in the past tense is always about blaming, forensic analysis, reporting things, telling about something that’s happened. You can observe this in movies or TV shows about criminals, police, investigation, or in divorce talks. Most of the argumentation, it’s about trying to find the guilty, blaming something, trying to conclude that something or someone did something, right or wrong, analyzing what has been done or happened, is was good or not, it was finished or not.
When 2 people are arguing badly, you hear a lot about the past! If you are/were in a relationship you probably (very high) had conversations in this tense! “You did that! Not it was you! I was just”… And go on and on and on 😉
This kind of tense it is not constructive, avoid it. (Of course, this is not a rule, sometimes you have to talk in this tense, for instance, every day in my daily scrum meeting I have to talk about what I have done in the previous day, but not in an discussion about something to be cleared, where you want to be viewed as constructive)
NOTE: In the past tense you can win an argument, but: You don’t use argumentation to win but to persuade. You can win an argument, but you could lose your relationship, friend, reputation, job, etc. Try to persuade, lead someone to do what you want, and not doing it by force. You can win by force, but in the end you will lose. Be wise.
A conversation in the present tense doesn’t go anywhere, it is when you are talking about what is right or wrong, giving opinions or stating a fact. It tends to finish conversations, because you are not going to anywhere in the conversation, it is not open to discussion, it is just about facts. It is very used as a politician’s tool, to say the obvious but not giving any solution. Observe the people that talks in the present tense, if you analysis the content of their discourse, they will not present a solution to things, just stating facts and issues (usually coming from the past), however, during the discourse it gives the illusion to the audience they are talking about solutions (which is in the future tense).
You want to use this tense to stating facts about what are you doing, but try to add a future tense (see below) to improve the quality of your speech. Something like, I am doing this and will improve the quality of the final product, or build a good relationship with the customer, etc.
NOTE: However, it can be a great tool when used to “create” an extremely bad situation and propose some relief out of that situation to the audience by just using a transition from present to the future tense – it is used as a persuasive tool. Ex:“The water is very polluted, very bad for our children and our health, but there is a solution, with this water purifier machine, your body will be healthy from now on…” See: Present/Past (bad)->Future (good)! It works great for salesmen! You are welcome for the tip 😉
You should always try to argue in this tense. When you talk in the future, you bring options, choices, hope. You bring people into conversation, you make people think. You are showing that you are interested in the progress of your company, you are trying to value their future, you are really hearing about ideas because you ask things about it, you promote choices and hope, ignoring possible “blames” of the past, because there is nothing to do about it. You are the solution person, not the troubled person. You talk about growing, not guilty. You talk about future, not past.
You can observe this type of discourse in the people who are winners. “I am doing my best and I will keep working to improve myself”, “Yes, we can”, “I will work everyday to be the best…”, “Things will change, we will make the change together” – There is always a sense of future and hope in the messages. You can try to improve your discourse during the day be changing a little bit at a time.
NOTE: Be careful, however, with too much future, because the future aren’t facts, just choices, hope and desire, be careful if someone is always talking in the future but without any real solutions. In this case, ask how.
You can construct an argument considering transitions between the past, present and tenses, but always try to start from the past to the future, like: “We were in a bad situation without knowing what to do, now we are fighting it and with effort and your help, we can do this and that…what ideas can you propose?”. Probably you heard similar discourses with this pattern in the past and they seemed great!
This is not a formula and not by any means a complete course in the subject, there are other considerations in the points above, but I want to show how simple is to improve the quality of an environment only considering the tense in a conversation.
TIP: Don’t forget, you can use this knowledge as an argumentation tool to improve your soft skills, but you could and should use it too, to understand how and why someone is talking about something.