Solid and effective communication

Communicating effectively isn't an innate talent that some people have and others don't—it's something anyone can learn and practice. I thought that I would need to master my interpersonal communication skills. Investing in favours is the first step, always explain the context and acknowledge it is a favour. Pointing out where interests align, express gratitude. Watch out for mismatched expressions and expressions of contempt. Make rank your current projects with the relevant importance of each of them. Rank your projects, and make time estimates. Push back if necessary and compare estimations with your boss. Think nonverbal queues like where feet are pointing. What I can be doing that is most important to you?
 

To communicate better and more effectively as a software engineer, you must communicate with purpose, listen actively, consider observability, ensure clarity, know your audience, be confident, be empathetic, be humble, respectful, and approachable, use the right tone, time your communication, use the suitable mode and channel of communication.

Solid and effective communication

Communication is integral to software engineering. Communication enables the sharing of information to achieve software engineering goals. Effective communication reduces costs, increases productivity, saves time, minimizes errors, and develops work cultures.

Practical communication skills can help software engineers gain a competitive advantage in the job market, increase their value in your current organization, and make them better software engineers by helping you improve your technical skills. The definition of conflict resolution is to resolve an issue or problem between two or more people, but is there a correct way to handle conflict? What are the effects of poor conflict management? Disagreements in the workplace are inevitable, as employees have different personalities, goals, and opinions. You can avoid many confrontations and resolve arguments and disputes by communicating humorously. Humour can help you say things that might be difficult to express without offending someone. However, you must laugh with the other person, not at them. When humour and play are used to reduce tension and anger, reframe problems, and put the situation into perspective, the conflict can become an opportunity for greater connection and intimacy. 

During the development of new functionality, you as a software engineer often have to choose whether to make it more quick and performant or more maintainable, more reliable, or more secure. For better decisions, you need to collect detailed requirements from all customers and stakeholders. You need to involve them in this requirement collection process, ask questions, and organize some docs to help you understand a better solution in this specific case and make sure that you plan to do the right things. You can say that it’s not the software engineer’s work; it’s a project/product manager task. And you’ll be correct, but not entirely because you, as a tech expert, need to understand what exactly you need to do. So, that’s your area of responsibility too, but yes, maybe from a little bit different perspective. Customers’ vague desires like "everything needs to work right and fast" should be transformed into a clear list of requirements. Thus, it will be easier to reach an agreement on controversial issues, both in design and during development. Of course, again, you are not a product or project manager, but you need clearly understand what your customer wants to provide the best and most effective results.

Managing your time most effectively allows you to focus on what’s essential, get tasks done more efficiently, and concentrate on main and long-term goals instead of wasting time arguing about minor things. Especially considering that working under pressure and still meeting deadlines is pretty much the life of a great software engineer. Customers often want accurate estimates of when work is going to be complete. Thus, you must have a time management strategy.

 

Of course, remember that we are always customer-centric and listen to what the customers want. After all, we don't close tickets — we solve customers' problems and make their work and life more accessible, especially when 95% of our customers are other engineering and operational support teams inside the company. However, in the pursuit of a customer-centric, don't sometimes forget you, as technical specialists, must warn customers, product owners, and project managers about the potential consequences of a particular technical implementation. It is normal to express your concerns, beliefs, and possibly disagreement — this improves the process of working out requirements, and architecture, making it more thoughtful and detailed. And that's not only about communication with customers — it's also about tech discussions with other software engineers. You or your colleagues can know or see something that might prevent some difficulties in project realization in the future — so, tell about it. However, it is essential to remember that fears and objections must be supported by facts, proofs, and evidence, and ideally by an alternative proposal.

Here are the steps to mitigate the conflict: 

Step 1: Define the source of the conflict. The more information you have about the cause of the problem, the more quickly you can help resolve it. To get the necessary information, use a series of questions to identify the cause, like, "When did you feel upset?" "Do you see a relationship between that and this incident?" "How did this incident begin?" 

As a manager or supervisor, you must give both parties the chance to share their story. It will provide you with a better understanding of the situation, as well as demonstrate your impartiality. As you listen to each disputant, say, "I see" or "uh-huh", to acknowledge the information and encourage them to continue to open up to you. 

Step 2: Look beyond the incident. Often, it is not the situation but the point of view that causes anger to fester and ultimately leads to a shouting match or other visible and disruptive results. 

The source of the conflict might be a minor issue that occurred months before, but the level of stress has grown to the point where the two parties have begun attacking each other personally instead of addressing the real problem. In the calm of your office, you can get them to look beyond the triggering incident to see the actual cause. Once again, probing questions will help, like, "What do you think happened here?" or "When do you think the problem between you first arose? 

Step 3: Request solutions. After getting each party's viewpoint, the next step is to get them to identify how the situation could be changed. Again, question the parties to solicit their ideas: "How can you make things better between you?" As a mediator, you must be an active listener, aware of every verbal nuance, and a good reader of body language. 

You want to get the disputants to stop fighting and start cooperating, steering the discussion away from finger-pointing and toward ways of resolving the conflict. 

Step 4: Identify solutions both disputants can support. Point out the merits of various ideas, not only from each other's perspective but in terms of the benefits to the organization. For instance, you might suggest the need for greater cooperation and collaboration to address team issues and departmental problems effectively. You are listening for the most acceptable course of action. 

Step 5: Agreement. The mediator needs to get the two parties to shake hands and accept one of the alternatives identified in Step 4. Some mediators go as far as to write a contract in which actions and time frames are specified. However, it might be sufficient to meet with the individuals and have them answer these questions: "What action plans will you put in place to prevent conflicts from arising in the future?" and "What will you do if problems arise in the future? The goal is to reach a negotiated agreement. 

This mediation process works between groups as well as individuals. 

  • A conflict is more than just a disagreement. It is a situation in which one or both parties perceive a threat (whether or not the threat is accurate). 
  • Conflicts continue to fester when ignored. Because disputes involve perceived threats to our well-being and survival, they stay with us until we face and resolve them. 
  • We respond to conflicts based on our perceptions of the situation, not necessarily an objective review of the facts. Our life experiences, culture, values, and beliefs influence our perceptions. 
  • Conflicts trigger strong emotions. If you aren't comfortable with your emotions or able to manage them in times of stress, you won't be able to resolve conflict successfully. 
  • Conflicts are an opportunity for growth. When you're able to resolve conflict in a relationship, it builds trust. You can feel secure knowing your relationship can survive challenges and disagreements. 

More tips for managing and resolving conflict You can ensure that the process of collecting and resolving conflict is as positive as possible by sticking to the following guidelines: Listen for what is felt as well as said. When you listen, you connect more deeply to your own needs and emotions and those of others. Listening strengthens, informs, and makes it easier for others to hear you when it's your turn to speak. Make conflict resolution the priority rather than winning or "being right." Maintaining and strengthening the relationship should always be your priority rather than "winning" the argument. Be respectful of the other person and their viewpoint. Focus on the present. If you're holding on to grudges based on past conflicts, your ability to see the reality of the current situation will be impaired. Rather than looking to the past and assigning blame, focus on what you can do in the here-and-now to solve the problem. Pick your battles. Conflicts can be draining, so it's important to consider whether the issue is worth your time and energy. Maybe you don't want to surrender a parking space if you've been circling for 15 minutes, but if there are dozens of empty spots, arguing over a single space isn't worth it. Be willing to forgive. Resolving conflict is impossible if you're unwilling or unable to forgive others. Resolution lies in releasing the urge to punish, which can serve only to deplete and drain your life. Know when to let something go. If you can't agree, agree to disagree. It takes two people to keep an argument going. You can choose to disengage and move on if a conflict is going nowhere. 

Feedback is one of the few tools that allows you to convey your expectations to colleagues and help shape growth points. Feedback from other people, in turn, provides material and information for reflection. A great software engineer should support colleagues' ideas, back up their arguments, give positive or constructive feedback — and take it. No one enjoys being criticized, but it's a certainty for all of us. Accepting constructive criticism is a character facet that goes a long way in IT, like software development, where broad and deep knowledge is required. Taking constructive criticism is key to growth for all employees and the internal processes inside the team and the whole company.

Documentation is the start point and finishes point of any software project that will be developed. Writing documentation is one of the understated skills software engineers must-have, but 99% don’t like it. But someone who has pretty good enough experience in this area clearly understands how important it is to create documentation along with the project, even before the start of the development stage and up to the enhancement of the project. Taking that extra time to write proper documentation of what you worked on will save vast amounts of time in the future for your customers, your teammates, for yourself.

As a software engineer, you will often need to talk with other team members while deciding on the merits and demerits of a coding approach. In the later stages of your career, you will have to guide your team towards a correct solution or provide solutions to customers. So, yes — you will need presentation skills whether you choose to convince via splashy and emotional presentations, well-written whitepapers, or with a series of diagrams just that it might not always be related to using PowerPoint slides. It can be a simple talk to communicate and explain some topics effectively to an audience. Be concise, be complete, be convincing! While technology is a complex skill that software engineers require to function in their roles and execute tasks, communication is a crucial soft skill that facilitates their work. Software development is impossible without collaboration and interactions, irrespective of whether engineers work in teams or as individual contributors. Top companies look for solid tech and communication skills when hiring software engineers.

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