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Soft skills for developers (or anyone) part 1

aaronw669 profile image aaronw669 ・5 min read

I suppose I should start with my background and why I wanted to try and blog about soft skills in the web development world. I am new to web development, I started 3 months ago by accident and now I'm hooked! My day job is currently in the injury rehabilitation industry, I've been fixing the unfixable for over 6 years after 2 years of training. That training taught me how a nerve innervates and more information than someone ever needs to know about human physiology. What we didn't learn was how to deal with people. When someone is injured or recovering from a nasty accident, maybe a granny smacked them with their car. They're vulnerable, it seems obvious but sometimes people in this industry see the broken limb, not the person attached to it.

What I quickly learnt was the majority of people don't really care what exercises you give them or even what diagnosis they get (I say majority because there are some fruit-pots out there that require in depth analysis of what's going on a micro-level in their cells); they just want to know you care and have their best interest at heart. And guess what, the knowledge of the finer workings of the piriformis muscle have about as much use here as a chocolate teapot. So I had to learn quickly, I am not by nature a chatty Cathy, I like my own company and small talk used to make my eyeballs twitch. I have though improved and I think everyone can, especially if it's not natural to you. So I thought i'd share how I did it, this topic is massive and I'm sure people have written more books about it, than I have hashed lines of code (it's not many so this isn't much of a comparison). In this initial brain vomit into this blog, I'm going to talk about first impressions, where else would you start but the beginning. I'm all about the synchronous functions (only because I haven't got to async functions in my JS book, yet).

7 seconds - that's all it takes to form a first impression. Human beings are fickle and our thoughts and feelings change about people but if you're going for a job interview, meeting new colleagues for the first time, or about to chat to a potential client, then you have to capitalise on those measly little seconds. There is plenty of science behind why it's only 7 seconds but it relates back to the Primacy effect. Humans aren't like computers our brains are a bit more fluid, you aren't storing information in a static database. There's a multitude of other things going on, like what to have for dinner or whether you locked the car door. To put the Primacy effect into simpler terms, if you try and remember a list, I'm sure you'll agree it's always easier to remember the first item on that list than say the seventh (especially if there's only 6 things on the list).

We could also say that the last thing you do or say when you had that interaction is also imprinted in your brain more because of the Regency effect (it's like the Joker to Batman), I'm going to continue with the primacy effect but just remember it's not all about the first 7 seconds, I do not advice relaxing and farting just before you exit the room, the job is not done!

Making a connection is difficult for most people, sure there's people out there who you could put in any room and by the time they left they'd know every detail of all the people in that room, what Jane's daughters getting married in and that Dave's hydrangeas just aren't sprouting this spring. These people probably don't need to read this blog, although they probably would so they knew me better. I am not one of these people I am the bloke in the corner just watching, not like in a creepy Norman Bates through your motel bathroom wall way but there all the same.

Normally those first 7 seconds start with a visual component, I know this is probably obvious but appearance matters. I'm not saying don't be you, hey if you are not the conventional norm, then great, but that doesn't mean don't make an effort. If you rock up to a first encounter and you've still got a bit of Big Mac stuck in your beard, or it looks like a bird has potentially set up home in your hair, then people are going to notice and it's going into the memory bank. These things are quick wins and really don't require any effort. Hopefully you've already selected a work environment that suits your personality, and you don't turn up to a fancy law firm in flip flops.

My adventure into creating a connection was with body language, for perspective the 7-38-55 rule is a concept concerning the communication of emotions. The rule states that 7 percent of meaning is communicated through spoken word, 38 percent through tone of voice, and 55 percent through body language. So even before you've opened your fly catcher to talk, the clock is ticking. 55% I can't even count that high, so knowing what you're doing with your body is a good place to start on your journey into improving your people skills.

I recommend a quick Google or Amazon search for books on Body Language, look for something short and concise a 101 or a body language for beginners, and just start reading. Be sure though that just like with any other new skill, if you don't practice it you aren't going to improve. Although the world is wild at the minute you can still practice, hit a zoom call (other video calling options are available...probably). Start with someone you're close to and analysis their and your body language. I probably wouldn't get your notebook out and start jotting down that they keep picking their nose, but you get the idea. Just try to start being aware of what is happening. Once you feel more comfortable start calling up people you aren't so close with, depending on where you live venture out into the wild and talk to someone in real life. Use the same tactic start with someone you know and then move to people you don't know. I'm not saying go up to a random person in the street and start talking about intimate details of their life's, but maybe someone on public transport who looks friendly and not likely to steal your lunch money or someone in a retail store.

This may sound like a strange thing to do and really I'm sure it is, but if you don't get out of your comfort zone and practice these skills you won't improve. I feel like this is probably a good place to stop this particular piece before I get bogged down in the weeds and start telling you how to paint your toe nails, but I do plan to write more on developing the human side of this world, writing code behind a computer is comfortable, humans not so much.

If this interests you and I didn't put you to sleep, follow me on dev.to or Twitter, to see where this all goes.

“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense.”

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