I know IT folks sometimes seem under-socialized and (to varying degrees) awkward. However, they don’t have the market-cornered on communication problems. Gosh, just turn on any TV sitcom and you will probably see a people who are having conflicts because they are miscommunicating and misunderstanding each-other. I even recall feuds between family members because “she said this to her, which was totally out-of-line”, but later they apologized because it was all just a big misunderstanding. Right? You’ve never seen that before, have you? LOL. Maybe every-day, right?
IT folks are very much like everyone else, on the inside. Any person’s primary motivation for communicating is to benefit themselves. Even if they are doing it to help others, the primary motivation is to advance their own initiative or current task. Teamwork is good too, but I like my team better than any other team. You get the pattern. It is human nature.
So when things go wrong with communications, the problem usually stems from two things.
- People tend to think about themselves. When you are communicating with someone else, that person is trying to think about what they need or how you are going to help them. If your side of the conversation is strictly geared towards helping yourself, the other person might have trouble relating-to what you are trying to communicate. Sometimes this can become quite baffling for folks. Like if I say I want a burger and your response is “I want a taco”, I might think, “I don’t want a taco. Why is he talking about tacos? WTH”
- People tend to expect from others, what they expect from themselves. On one occasion, I recall dealing with a person who was convinced that I was trying to subvert him in some way. Which is completely against my nature. I just don’t operate like that, and I was astounded that the other person would even suspect that I could be capable of such guile. It took me a while to remember this point: the other person probably had a subversive nature and was simply expecting me to act the same. It was astounding (to that person) to think that I could be genuinely offering to help without some spectacular agenda for myself. After that exchange I was very careful about how I interacted with that person. VERY careful.
In the end, it comes down to empathy. If you spend your time thinking about yourself, then you will have trouble motivating others. Once you have empathy, and understand what motivates others, you can begin to work on agendas that will benefit both of you.
Of course, to have empathy means you need to understand others. It only works if you know what makes other people tick. So, you need to start by getting to know others. You probably need to ask questions and listen to the answers. Think about what the other person said, and why. Eventually, you may need to read a little more about what makes others tick. Mostly, because not-everyone is wired the same and therefore is not motivated by the same things.
Most people really do want to be understood and are glad to work with you. If not, you will notice when a person’s actions and words don’t line up. That is a discussion for another time.