Couple days ago I went to see a Dentist/Hygienist for routine checkup. Visiting dentist is not my favorite task because my teeth are not that great and my hygienist made me feel very unconfortable last year, both physically and emotionally. So I chose a different dental office this year. To my surprise, this new hygienist made my day. First, while doing the cleaning, she kept talking about daily things to distract my attention from the teeth; secondly, she praised my home-care work such as teeth brushing, flossing. Ironically I should thank to the very hygienist (who made me unconfortable) for my improvement because it was her taught me those skills and her harsh words made me work real hard in the past year. But I did not come back to her office because of “unpleasant experience”.
This made me thinking about a friend when I was in fraternity at Rolla. Ben, who was a sophomore and vice president of our fraternity, is very smart (GPA 4.0). And, more importantly, he knows how to initiate a conversation and make you feel confortable. I think his unusual maturity (and sensitivity) probablly comes from his own family backgound. By the way, he also taught me how to drive. I remember he stood behind my car and told me to backup. He stood very close to the bump.
Last summer I had chances to back home (China), and meet some new friends. I was very impressed by the communication skills of one friend (who is also much younger than me). It appears to me age is not a factor here.
In the software development world, many people have great technical skills. But not that many have great soft skills or pleasant personalities. I heard the leading technology companies such as Google will reject a canidate if he/she is lacking in those aspects. In the industry those who have pleasant personality and leadship skills usually become leaders. I know a manager who is not necessarily the smartest guy in terms of IQ (maybe he is, as an old Chinese saying大智若愚), but he can knows how to start up conversations, how to listen, and his humor makes others feel very confortable. He is one of a kind and is very instrumental in company’s certain business activities.
I have a friend seemed have some opinions about programmers’ personalities. She said they don’t know how to socialize. Luckily she excluded me. I can understand her feeling. We software programmers spend too much time with computer and sometimes we lost the sense how to interact with people.
Back to my own personality. I was a bit shy when I started working for my company. I remember once my annual performance review says “Major is very reserved…a team project may improve his communication skills…”. I don’t think I was born that way. I don’t expect to change my personality either. But I am working on a few small things such as “small talks” to make myself more pleasant :-). By “small talks”, I am not talking about the “Small Talk” computer language, I am referring to “conversation starters”, or “ice breaker” when I meet people. I started this recently so far it seems working for me. I had more outside-work conversations with my coworkers; and I feel happier when I am in my office. I hope my coworkers feel the same way.