The Ruby Freelancers Show 055 – Better Communications with Clients, Prospects, and other Contractors with Jenn Swanson (Communication Diva)

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Panel Jenn Swanson (twitter Communication Diva eBook) Eric Davis (twitter github blog) Ashe Dryden (twitter github blog) Charles Max Wood (twitter github Teach Me To Code Rails Ramp Up) Discussion 00:32 - Jenn Swanson Introduction C...


[Hosting and bandwidth provided by the Blue Box Group. Check them out at] CHUCK: Hey everybody and welcome to Episode 55 of the Ruby Freelancers Show! This week on our panel, we have Eric Davis. ERIC: Hello! CHUCK: Ashe Dryden. ASHE: Hi there! CHUCK: I'm Charles Max Wood from This week we have a special guest, Jenn Swanson. JENN: Hey! CHUCK: Do you want to introduce yourself really quickly, Jenn, for the folk who aren't familiar with your work? JENN: Sure! I'm the creator of, the podcast; and sometimes blog. My aim is to help people deepen their relationships by improving their communications - those are relationships both at work and at home. CHUCK: Awesome! This story is going to sound a little bit familiar because we've had some other people that I met at New Media Expo that are part of The Podcast Mastermind. That's how I met Jenn; it was up at Cliff Ravenscraft's get together at New Media Expo. We chatted for quite a while about communication and work, and stuff. I'm really excited to have you on the show because there were a lot of things that we talked about that really applied to the way that we deal with other people that we have to work with as freelancers. JENN: Okay! Yeah, I'm excited to be here, too. I remember having a great long conversation in that venue, in that place. It was a lot of fun! CHUCK: Yeah! So it's really interesting -- I'm not sure which area is the most important when you're trying to communicate to clients or prospects or other people related to the work you're doing, so I thought maybe we could just start with the people that have already hired us, with clients. Do you have any tips that you want to give or should I give you a scenario of things that I've seen that can cause problems for people that can't communicate well. JENN: Well, I can start with one that every man could use more skill in, me included, and that would be listening. I think that -- ERIC: What was that one again? [Chuck laughs] JENN: Listening? [laughs] Yeah, good one! Ah, you're quick! Yeah, I think that people don't feel listened to, in general. How often is it that someone will sit there and -- well, the podcasters are different [laughs] different creatures because people do listen to us -- but in general, how often is it that you get some time to just be listened to and be heard? So I think, improving upon listening skills and really really listening (we have something called level 3 listening in some of the coaching that I do), which means listening beyond words is very key. I think hearing people and asking people to tell you what they need from you rather than you telling them what you can do for them, is a very important thing especially in a business setting. CHUCK: Yeah, I can definitely see that. So what do you mean by listening beyond, I guess, just hearing what they're saying? JENN: Listening beyond words, that depends if you're in a face to face setting or you're on the telephone; there's different mediums. So it depends on which one you're in as far as how well you can listen. If you're face to face, which is the best scenario, listening beyond words means paying attention to not just the words they say, but everything that we called "paralanguage". Paralanguage means everything around the words that would include the tone of voice, the speed in which they're speaking; it would include how loud or soft they're speaking, and it would also include body language. So it would be paying attention to little tiny shifts and movements in the person's face, how they're sitting, how they're holding themselves - you can tell an awful lot from all of those things and much more than just from what the words are that they're speaking. So, that would be the face to face scenario. If it was a telephone scenario, sometimes it helps if you're really concentrating, you've got your eyes shut, and you're listening to the other person speak and paying attention again to the tonality, and the speed, and the inflections, and those clues that could give you more information than just the words that they're saying. It's a little more difficult on the computer as far as using email and that kind of thing because it's not always possible to get the tone right. I'm sure, as I've experienced, you've probably experienced emails that have been miscommunications because you haven't been able to hear the tone. ASHE: That's something that I've wondered about a lot. Because a lot of the conversations that I tend to have are in an online medium, are there suggestions that you have to be more deliberate about the way that you're saying things or that you can convey that message that they wouldn't get just from seeing your text [inaudible]? JENN: Well, yeah, and exactly, we have developed those little happy face things, the emoticons. I think the reason why LOL was invented was because it allowed what couldn't be shown just with the words in a text situation. So I think, being either very clear about what you're saying and saying a little bit more in a written form, texting doesn't work that way, but in a communication as far as an email goes, being really careful and clear. If you're going to make a joke, you might want to put in bracket something like "I'm joking". I don't know that you would use a joke in a business situation, but I think it's critical to try not to be sarcastic, to try not to be funny if there is a possibility that what you've written might be misconstrued. ASHE: Makes sense. CHUCK: Yeah, I like that. And I like the idea of a bracketed tonality sort of thing so you can convey "I'm joking" or whatever. I can definitely see at the same time like the sarcasm being a problem where people would read it and not realize that the tone was intended to be sarcastic. I've actually had that happen where I've been chatting with somebody and they say something and they're trying to be sarcastic and funny, but because you're in an IM, it doesn't come across that way. JENN: Right. Another thing that can cause a lot of problems is the CAPS LOCK on the keyboards. I remember having a back and forth email conversation with somebody about an event I was organizing, and I was emailing this woman and I realized she was at work at the time; I got an email back that was all in capital letters that said "I AM AT WORK RIGHT NOW, I WILL EMAIL YOU WHEN I GET HOME", and then her name. I thought, "Wow! She's really angry that I'm emailing her while she's trying to work and she's yelling", I felt terrible the rest of the day. And then (when) I got home, my email to her was "I apologize if I was interrupting you at work, but you didn't have to answer me" kind of thing (I didn't say it like that). Anyway, she says "Oh, absolutely not! I always accidentally hit that CAPS LOCK button and that was the case". [Chuck laughs] JENN: So here I was feeling bad the rest of the day that I had made her upset and it wasn't that [inaudible]. CHUCK: That's kind of funny. One thing that I've noticed if we go back to talking over the phone, or over Skype, or what have you -- and Skype really isn't a substitute for being in person because what you usually get is a web cam full of somebody's face, so you get facial expressions, but that's it; you can't see their body language or anything else -- but in either case, all I really get out when you talk about listening beyond the words is, I get a sense of what's important to them and whether or not they're happy with me - that's usually the extent of what I'm getting beyond what they're actually saying. JENN: And that's important. CHUCK: Are there other things that I should be listening for that I'm missing in that kind of communication? JENN: You want to listen for 'pauses' and 'hesitation' because sometimes silence can be the cliché louder than words, and that could be that the person is just thinking, but it could also be that their hesitating. I do put an emphasis on tone because I really think that it is hard to hide a tone of anger, or of upset, or of doubts. It's hard to hide that unless you're deliberately forcing yourself to be "Oh, okay! No problem". But if you know the person, that's one thing; if you don't know the person, it might be a little bit more tricky. One of the exercises I use at my students around listening beyond words -- I teach Human Relations skills at a college here in Vancouver, part of the time -- and one of the things I do is I use the sentence "I want to go home now", and I get them to say it with a whole bunch of different tonalities. So, say it like you're angry, say it like you're sleepy, say it like you're super excited. And they practice with each other and it's the same exact words, but the tone is a completely different communication. You might have experienced this; I don't know how it is where you are, but people say "How are you?" every time they see you. When you're walking down the hall -- I've had the experience where someone has walked by and said "Hey, how are you?", and they kept walking. And I'm thinking "Well, they don't give whatever about how I am at all; it's just a greeting. It's not even they could care less, they just walked right by me". (If) somebody says "How are you?", you can say "I'm fine, thanks!" or you can say "I'm FINE, thanks". [laughter] JENN: Right? Totally different tonality and a completely different message -- CHUCK: [yawn] I'm fine...[laughs] JENN: Yeah! Exactly! [laughs] So I think, there's something key there. And if we're really actually listening for all of those things, then we'll get more of the communication than if we're just distracted doing other things. ASHE: Kind of related to listening and something that I've been struggling with a lot is, I tend to pause and hesitate a lot in the things that I'd say. When I do that, a lot of people will jump in and start talking so I can't finish a plot and just interrupting in general. I've had a hard time finding a way to politely motion to people that I wasn't done yet or let me finish what I'm saying. JENN: Motioning may not work; it might end up that you have to actually be assertive and say, "Hang on! I'm not finished; just let me finish my thought. If I don't finish my thought, I'm going to lose it. Let me finish my thought, and then I'll be quiet and you can talk". It depends on the context as well, but 'interrupting' is one of the biggest challenges for people in communication. When you have to list on a resume your strength and your weaknesses, that is one that seems to be a huge weakness for people in the communications skills area - interrupting. Because sometimes your brain is going faster, you want the other person to stop talking so you can jump in and give your opinion on whatever it is. But if we're doing that, we're not actually listening, right? ASHE: Right. JENN: So I would say in that case then, it would be probably best to straight up say "I'm thinking I might not get everything I'm trying to say out; just give me a minute, let me think this through, say what I want to say, and then it'll be your turn". ERIC: One thing I do is I actually verbalize like the "Hmmm" or the "Uh", the non-vocal stuff just so they can hear I'm still working through an idea like the stuff you don't want to do when you're presenting; I actually add that and just have a buffer zone when my brain is going through it. JENN: Yeah, and that's fine, too. I know that you don't want to do that when you're up presenting, although you can do some physical gestures to indicate to an audience that you are thinking - just pausing, looking down for a moment, not making eye contact with people. There are signals that you can give an audience that you are thinking about a response before you make it. CHUCK: What if -- JENN: But yeah, that's a good idea, too. Sorry. CHUCK: So what if you want to interrupt? It seems like sometimes, depending on the context, it's a little bit rude even though they cut you off maybe because they thought you were done talking, and sometimes it's totally fine because you have more to add and they realize "Okay well, he wasn't done". How do you pick up on that? Where it's going to be a problem and when it's not? JENN: I guess it depends on who the person is and why you are interrupting, what your motivation is. If you have to impart something that's vitally important to the person and can't wait for a couple of seconds or a minute then, -- sometimes if you're face to face with a person, you can put your hand under arm and say, "Hang on a sec, hang on. I just want to say this one thing and then I'll let you carry on. It depends on the person. And again, what it is you're interrupting them four? I worked for 23 years in the hospital setting, and it was very often that I had to go and interrupt people in conversation because the doctor would be on the phone, or there would be something going on that needed urgent interrupting, and I got pretty good at doing that. But there were other times when it wasn't going to be appropriate to do it. I guess that's something to think about, too. ERIC: It also depends on the person, like you said, some people I know going to long, drawing out stories and you want to interrupt them because the story really isn't the important thing, it's the concept of the story. So instead of sitting there patiently for 20 minutes, well, they finished your story, you can interrupt them and try to summarize it and try to move on before everyone gets bored and disconnect. JENN: Yeah. CHUCK: It's also easier to do that to people who are aware that they do that. So most of the time, if they're aware that they do that and they're open to that, then when you interrupt them like "Oh yeah, I tend to do that. Here, let me get to the point." JENN: Uhm-hmmm. But not everybody is so self-aware...[laughs] CHUCK: That's true. That is very true -- JENN: [laughs] I know. I have a relative, sorry -- here we're talking about interrupting and I'm interrupting... CHUCK: How rude! JENN: I have a relative -- Yeah, how rude of me! I have a relative who repeats herself continuously; she'll tell me the same story 3 times in the same phone conversation. I've become very, feels almost, rude, but I've said "You've already told me that" [laughs] because it drives me crazy. CHUCK: Yeah, I have relatives that do that, too. But they have seen out of dementia, so it just happens naturally. I want to move on to something else that I've ran into with some clients more than others. I try and help them become better communicators, but at the same time, really what it is is I want to know what's important and I want to get enough details so that I can do what they need me to do. Most of the time I'm pretty good about getting the information that I need because I can think far enough ahead to do it, but sometimes I miss it, sometimes I don't always get what I need, and sometimes it's really hard to get people to tell me what they need. Are there good techniques for exploring that and getting people to understand what you need and why you need it? JENN: Yeah. I think what I'm hearing you talk about is values, and what people value -- CHUCK: So specifically, in software, somebody wants a certain set of features in their software, for example. I need to know what's important; a lot of times I need to know why they want that particular feature in there, and I need to know any implementation details that actually matter to them. Sometimes, they just want something that does X and Y, so you'll just build X and Y. Sometimes, they really care about specific details, so I'll go start building it and find out later that they actually cared about some of the implementation details that I didn't ask about because I just assumed that they wanted it done like something else that I had seen or they had seen. JENN: Yeah. I would think that you would be asking them what they value and whatever it is you're trying to build them; what things they value, what things they need. One of the techniques to use to ask those questions is to use open-ended questions, which you're probably familiar with, right? Shall I -- CHUCK: That wasn't an open-ended question because I would answer it yes or no, right? JENN: [laughs] Exactly. So, anything that is not a yes-no, which would be a closed question, would be an open-ended question. So constructing or dreaming up some open-ended questions that would get to the core of the value of what it is that you're creating for the other person. "How do you envision this particular tool working for you? or "What is important for you that this thing that I'm building does?" those kinds of questions that would be more than a yes-no, more than I want it to do this, this, and this; you want to know why. CHUCK: I really like that. And I would also venture maybe "what have you seen that is similar to what you want and how was it different?" JENN: Yeah! So you're getting at what they need, what they want, but the question there is, why? So what are they want to be able to do with this and why is that important to them? CHUCK: Yeah. We have a really -- with my current client, which tomorrow is actually my last day with them, but they have long drawn out planning meeting -- we've been trying to train them to actually do that and just give us the why and the details that matter. He's taken quite a long time because what they tend to do is they tend to come and tell us what exactly to build. So they're doing software design and database design, and ultimately we'll come back and get down to the why and we'll give them a better solution than the one they came up with. So it becomes really important to get down to that why as opposed to just saying, "Okay, so you want a blue fence?" What they really want is a way to keep a dog in the backyard. JENN: Exactly. I think sometimes people have a hard time expressing that they answer to the 'why' if they're not asked in a particular way. So figuring out the best way to ask for that, again using a variety of different questions would be I think key. CHUCK: Are there any other good ways of doing that besides open-ended questions? JENN: It depends on how much time you have to invest, I guess, with this client. [laughter] JENN: Getting to know what other things are important in this person's life; what else do they do, who is this person? And a little bit more in depth as to "Okay, they want this product, but what are they do for fun? Who is this person when they're not doing this job that I'm doing for them? What are some of the things that are important to this person that maybe don't have anything to do with this, but somehow might relate?" Does that make sense? CHUCK: That makes total sense. I don't know about you guys, but I have a tendency to compartmentalize this. So I like to get to know my clients, but I typically am not getting to know them on any kind of personal level because I think it might inform the project; it's usually just because it's easier to work with somebody if I know them better. But that makes a lot of sense because their world-view is going to impact the 'why' and the 'what' that they want. JENN: Yeah, values and beliefs are huge in communication. Sometimes we don't understand somebody else because we have no idea (a) what they believe (b) what they value, and those are two different things. So if you can get to some of that, you don't have to get to an extensive-exhaustive list, but even if you can get to some of it, then that might help you to understand who this person is and what they need in a more deep way. CHUCK: That makes sense. ERIC: I also try to find the background of them so if the person I'm talking to has an MBA, lives in breeze business, I might communicate with them differently than someone who came out of software, say like an electrical engineer, and they work their way up (in) another project manager. They have different history, different experiences, different background, so I can communicate with them differently. Like the electrical engineer, I could probably get more technical with and I can try to give them stories and analogies based on electrical engineering versus the business person, I would have to be more on the business, say like I talk about Henry Ford or some of the past stuff. So I dig a little bit just to find out where they came from especially early on their career because that's going to basically shape how they are now, and try to use that to communicate with them easier. So if it's like a concept (that) they don't understand completely, I can refer to it in their own terms. JENN: That's excellent. I do that sometimes in coaching. If I know this person as a technical person, or is somebody who needs statistics or something in their hand because they're analytical, then I'll give them an exercise that's on a paper -- (like) draw me a pie and put this and this in this pie -- and they'll go away holding this piece of paper, that is far more valuable to them than some conceptual creative thing that might not fit their personality at all. So yeah, getting to know who the person is that you're trying to serve, I think, is a really important piece of being able to communicate with them more clearly and more effectively. ASHE: I think that's a great point, too, because a lot of people that might feel, I don't want to say threatened, but maybe intimidated by technical knowledge and if you're bringing them technical information that's not at their level, a lot of people won't bring that up to you; they'll just kind of nod their head through the entire process and then you get to the end. Or maybe is using some kind of milestone point and realize that you haven't done a good job of actually communicating what's going on at a level that they'll understand. JENN: Right. And they haven't either because they have just pretended to understand everything you were saying and walked away and probably went home and said "I had no clue what she was talking about", ASHE: Right. JENN: Which happens in the medical field all the time because the medical people might be using medical terminology, medical language, and the person is too shy, too embarrass, too intimidated to say anything, and they're staying there and nodding "Ah-huh", they go home to their partner and "What have the doctor say?", "I have no idea, I just have to take this pills", right? It happens all the time. Partly, it's a non-assertive reaction to not be able to say "I don't know what you're talking about, please talk English (or whatever your language is)". CHUCK: Can I ask you a question related to this? So, I'm one of those people that's not shy, go figure I'm a podcaster and all this stuff -- [Jenn laughs] CHUCK: I have no problem asking, myself. So I go to the doctor, he says something to me and I'll look at him and just say "Look, assume I'm an idiot and tell me what's wrong", and then I get an explanation that I understand -- maybe that means I'm an idiot, I don't know! JENN: [laughs] It means you're assertive. That's good. [laughs] CHUCK: So the problem that I run into with some of my clients is the same thing that we're talking about here where I'm talking at a level that another professional would understand, but not at a level that they would understand. So how do I tell them or help them to pick up on the cues that they should give me that are effectively saying "Look, talk to me like an idiot", and I'm not saying that my clients are idiots, what I'm saying is they have to give me a cue that says "Look, talk to me like a layperson; talk to me like a person that's not a professional, that doesn't deal with this everyday". JENN: They have to do that, but maybe it starts with a question from you which would be a question something like "Okay I have 3 different ways of explaining this. I can tell you this like somebody who has never heard of this before and as a complete layperson. If you've got a medium, sort of middle-level understanding of this stuff but you're not entirely sure, I can talk that way. And if you're a techy, then I can talk to you in technical language. How would you like me to deliver this information?" CHUCK: Yeah, that make some sense. But the problem I ran into sometimes is that, I'll stop and say "Did you understand?" or I'll try and ask them questions to make sure they understood and a lot of times, they'll give me enough information to make me think that they understood or they'd say "Yeah, I got it", and it turns out not to be the case. JENN: Right. And sometimes people are embarrassed if you ask them if they understand because of course, they should understand; they're intelligent adults who should be able to get this stuff, and it would be embarrassing to say I don't understand. So that's in way, is putting them on the spot, although I understand why. It might be easier in the end and quicker and more efficient to just be upfront about "I can talk about this at a developer level or a hobbyist level or somebody who's completely brand new to any of this" -- CHUCK: But sometimes I'm trying to talk at the lower level and I'm still not simplifying it enough. JENN: Right. And so giving the person permission to say "Okay I don't understand what you're saying, back up for a second" can also be helpful. Sometimes people just need permission. "If you're not understanding what I'm talking about as I'm going along, I don't want you to walk out of here not understanding what we've been talking about. I really want to make sure that I'm being clear and I'm being clear in a way that's helpful for you. So if at any point in our conversation I say something technical or something that doesn't make any sense, please stop me." ASHE: One of the things I also do is whenever I have client meetings or a client and I are discussing something, I take notes as we go so I'll put "This is the decision that we made and these are the points why we made this decision", and then I email that to them after the meeting so then if they have any follow up questions or if there's anything that wasn't clear -- because a lot of times people don't realize that there's something that was vague to them that maybe I didn't fully explain, they don't realize until 2 or 3 hours later -- it gives them to opportunity to look over and see what actually happened. And if there's a certain point that doesn't make sense, then there is a non-confrontational way to say "Hey, I didn't really understand this". JENN: Yeah! CHUCK: Yeah. And I usually also, on top of that, I try to add something to the effect of "You really need to understand this because I don't want you to pay me for 2 hours of me doing the wrong thing". JENN: Yeah, exactly. And, "This relationship, it's not going to be as effective as it could be if we're not understanding each other and what we're trying to accomplish. So I'd like to help you and I want to make sure that I'm speaking in a way that's comprehensible to you so please let me if there's anything I can clarify." CHUCK: Yeah. I'm going to sideline this a little bit because I want to ask Ashe a question. How do you take notes on your client meetings and stuff? Because that's something that I usually do really really short-hand notes that I can make sense of later, but is there a good way to do that so that you can get all the details that are important with the client? ASHE: Yeah, I use Googlebox and I actually at the beginning of the meeting share the document with them so I can be taking notes while they're talking and then they can be taking notes while I'm talking, so it's a collaboration. So if there's anything after the fact that more detail needs to be added in, somewhere they can add it or I can add it, and then that document kind of lives forever. CHUCK: I like that...I really like that idea. JENN: And what you're doing in effect is you're taking minutes, minutes of a meeting, right? And then usually, those have to be approved at the next meeting so that's a great idea. CHUCK: That sounds so enterprisey and stuff. [laughter] ASHE: I usually look at it more as a collaboration than...And it seems to 'itch' less, when I say it that way. CHUCK: [laughs] I just have to poke fun. [Ashe laughs] CHUCK: But anyway, I really like the idea because then if there's something that I write down on the notes, that they feel like they have to amend, they can just do that. And then I have whatever it is that they put in there because it was THAT important. ASHE: Yup! JENN: Yup. ERIC: I don't share my notes anymore, but I've used like a Mind Map before, which is nice just because then you can have like the higher level topic and then drill down into it. And what I done with a couple of clients is basically, we'd have multiple meetings so each meeting would get its sloat note so at a glance, I can look back at all of our previous notes if we need to refer back to decisions, and I can still keep taking new notes. But I haven't shared that with clients just because most of time, they won't review and find value in the notes. CHUCK: Yeah. There's actually utility out there that allows you to have two people at Mind Map at the same time, just like you can do with Google Talks, and it's called MindMeister. It's a paid service if you want to collaboratively add a document, but it is another option if you prefer that way. (I) just thought I throw that up there. So if there aren't any other things you want to add on this, I want to move on to prospects. And I want to specifically tell a real short story: I drove up to Park City, Utah, last week and incidentally I got food poisoning from having lunch with them up there. But besides that, it seemed like they weren't quite sure what they wanted so I kept trying to ask them open-ended questions and leading questions to see if they would object to anything that I was leading them down the path toward to get an idea because they weren't sure if they wanted an employee or contractor, they weren't sure what technologies they wanted to use, they really weren't sure what the full scope of the project was. How do you get people around to the point where they can actually give you enough detail for you to say "Well yes, then absolutely I can help you do whatever it is that you want to do"? JENN: [laughs] So it sounds like the person was using you as a bit of a brainstorming session. CHUCK: If they were, it wasn't very effective because I didn't get very many direct answers of any kind [laughs]. JENN: Ha! So, one of the things sometimes when people are trying to imagine what it is they need, one of the questions that sometimes can be asked is if time and money were of no consideration, what are you dreaming about? What do you envision this being whatever it is happens to be? Forget any restrictions, forget anything what is it, and then once you get some kind of a description, hopefully if they give you something, then okay now what from that can we work with? CHUCK: That's a good one. Obviously I didn't ask them that. JENN: [laughs] Because sometimes it can be (that) the person just wants to think out loud and if you can help them think out loud, then maybe you can come up with some kind of a starting place. But yeah, it can be a definite challenge if the person has no idea what it is they want. But if they're taking up your time -- and it could be a chance to do some of the relationship building and finding out about the other person and what their values are again to then sort of start to formulate a plan. ERIC: I don't do it that often, but sometimes for a very non-technical client, if I'm asking like what features do you want and I get basically a blank stare, I'll say "Okay, who's going to use this system?" and they'll say "Okay, our bookkeeper will". "Okay, so walk me through your bookkeeper's typical day", and basically have them tell a story of how their business works, how their workflow works. And taking as many answers as I can, from that I can figure out like what the features and stuff are, but that's a very round about weight to figure out what they need or where a software can plug into. I've done that when I make my own products just because I know which areas I can skip over, but you have to put a lot of time into the discovery and figuring that out. JENN: Yeah, and sometimes it comes down to a persons learning style, too. If they are a visual learner, then they see stuff. If they're an auditory learner, they might want to just hear stuff and hush it out and dream about it and think about it. It can be tiring and exhaustive and take a long time, but probably the time upfront is worth it so that you've got exactly what the person wants by the time you get to the end rather than just guessing and imagining. ERIC: Yeah, that's true. Because I know, I can't pronounce it, but when people their learning styles like touching and moving things around, I know those kind of people work really good with giving them like paper prototypes or a website that you can click through stuff, but doesn't actually do much just because they can in a way feel how the stuffs are going to work together. And that's another technique that I've used. JENN: Yeah, "Kinesthetic Learners"? ERIC: Yeah. I can't pronounce that word. [laughter] JENN: Yeah, moving around and touching things are actually walking around if there's a space to look out or whatever it is you're doing. But yeah, figuring out a bit about learning style of the person could be useful, too. I know there's absolutely no point for me to sit down and read a manual for any technical thing that I bring into the house because I hate manuals, and I probably would learn a lot faster how to program my telephone, each handset playing a different tune if I had the manual and I would read it, but I'd rather just push buttons and play with it until it does something. And that's just the way I am, so everyone has a different style that way. CHUCK: Yeah I do like the idea of using props, whether you're just drawing them on a piece of paper or drawing them on paper and then letting them move them around or even click through them. JENN: Yeah. So whatever method that works to communicate more clearly what it is they want you to do as the one to try and go with. And if handing them as she'd expects makes their eyes glaze over, then you know you're going in the wrong direction. CHUCK: Yeah. I've also done white board and then you take a picture with your phone of the white board if you're in the same room kind of thing. JENN: Yeah! CHUCK: Interesting. So, we've talked about communicating with the prospect or client to get features and things like that. How do you communicate to the client that you're the right person for the job? JENN: [laughs] You mean after they've had conversations with you already? Or -- CHUCK: Yeah. Typically the way that it works is, I'll sit down with somebody and I'll spend half hour or an hour or maybe a little longer depending just figuring out what they want, what they need. And then toward the end, if I haven't convinced them just by helping them do the discovery -- because sometimes that's enough and they're like "Well obviously, you know enough about this to help me figure it out and you understand it well enough to implement it", and then they'll just hire me. But sometimes, they need that little extra "Okay well clearly now that we know what you need, I'm the right person for you to hire", and I need to communicate that well to them so that they really understand that I get what they need and that I can do it. JENN: Okay, so instead of telling them that you're the right person, my first instinct would probably be to say as far as relationship building goes and rapport and all of that, "I'm feeling really comfortable with taking on this project, how are you feeling about working with me? Can you see yourself working with me? Can you see yourself engaging with my company, my product, whatever it is I'm doing? I'm feeling good about this; I think that we could have a great working relationship together. I'm game, how about you?" ASHE: A lot of us is kind of sub-conscious, too. So if it's you and somebody else that they are looking at to choose for a job and all of your skills and experience are similar, what I try to do is just be the most personable person they've ever met. I want it to make it seem like I'm going to be the most fun professional person they've ever worked with. So I smile a lot, I laugh a lot, and just try to be somebody that they would enjoy working with. JENN: Well because a lot of it has to do, again, with relationship, right? So if they like you, if they think you're fun and professional and you know your stuff, but you've made some kind of a personal connection with them in some way -- you talked for 5 minutes about something that they like, they value, like particular sports, or whatever it is -- if you've built some rapport in your conversations, discover that you have something in common, of course as long as it's not fake, then people tend to grab a tape toward people that they have relationship with. Chuck, you know Cliff of course, and Cliff sells a product package for podcasting on is website, and his product package is more expensive than if you went and bought all of the pieces individually from different places, but people buy it from him consistently because of the relationship they developed with him. To me, I think that's a big part of who do you trust; do you like this person, do you trust him. Yes they have all of the skills, but the emotional and intelligent stuff, sometimes is even more key. CHUCK: It's funny, too, how often we tend to overlook that and by 'we' I mean sometimes me. And I get down in the weeds and I start thinking "Okay, well I've got to demonstrate to them that I have the capability to do this and that they can rely on me to do it". Sometimes I forget about the "Oh well, this is a guy that I would go fishing with over the weekend, too", kind of thing. JENN: Yeah! CHUCK:"I like talking to him and so I like talking to him every week as my tech guy". JENN: Right. And "We have something in common and when we're not talking techy stuff, we can talk flies or lures", or whatever kind of fishing you do [laughs]. [Chuck laughs] JENN: Yeah. CHUCK: Yeah, I don't fish much. That was just an example. But golf, maybe. JENN: Yeah. So I mean it's finding a commonality and finding something that you can...I'll tell a story, again back at the hospital where I used to work, about a doctor who was absolutely amazing technically. He was a specialist, and he would come in to the intensive care unit where I was working and he would be very technically good as a doctor, but he had absolutely zero communications skills. Instead of walking and saying to the nurse, "Hey, how was your weekend", or something, he would walk in and say "Can I have the chemistry results from blah, blah, blah", and people were afraid of him; they were scouring about trying to get him the technical information that he needed, and not once that anybody connect with him on a human level because he hadn't made the effort to do that. I don't even know if he knew how. And so, stuff started being ugly. When that doctor was coming, people will roll their eyes and "Oh, I better get all the results back before he asked me hard questions", and there was absolutely no rapport going on, and it was really kind of sad. CHUCK: So how does the stereotypical-introverted code geek develop skills like that? ERIC: Like me. JENN: [laughs] Assertive skills, it's practice. And it's practicing on an unsuspecting people. Right? [laughter] JENN: So practicing, talking to random people that you don't even know. So you're walking, you're taking the bus, or walking down the street, or in the store, and making small talk with people. It's just practicing; putting yourself out there in a non-technical personable way, and see what happens. But it is work. It's developing a skill set that is a challenge for people who aren't gregarious, assertive people to begin with. And there's lots of people like that out there; I was one of them. CHUCK: So it's kind of a 10,000 hours thing like coding or other skills? JENN: Yeah it's a skill. Definitely communications are a skill, and I call it a practice because I don't think you can become an expert at it. I think everybody, it doesn't matter if you have a 5-year degree or whatever, I still think it's a practice. You have to use it every day. And even somebody who is "an expert" can mess up royally. So I think, it's an ongoing skill set that needs continuous practice, and every once in a while, we do a bad job. You can't listen perfectly 100% of the time, that's exhausting [laughs]. That's impossible. But if you can try and do it more often than not, then you'll be ahead of the game. ERIC: One thing I've heard from clients who held a lot of freelancers, their biggest complain with freelancers is almost never technical, it's always the personality or the social skills like they might hire a freelancer, but the freelancer will basically disappear and not communicate with them and then a month later, show up with all the work done. And they told me like "We'd rather have someone take two months, but tell us every week how things are going or get on the phone with us and just talk and have some band-work because they said they're hiring people, they're not hiring work that's done. And because they get people for the long-term like with this client, I work with them I think for 3 or 4 years straight, it's not a "We just need this code and that's it. It's like we want to work with people that we can rely on, that we can trust, and that we can give larger and larger projects, too, and know that they're going to get it done and get it done the way that we need it. JENN: And that's just absolutely true. Daniel B. Goleman, the guy who wrote "Emotional Intelligence", talks about the people that succeeds in professional life, they can all have the same technical skills, but the ones that succeed and become all that they dream to be are the people that play well with others. And so if you can't play well with others, it doesn't matter how brilliant the technical part of what it is you do; it's the connecting with the other person that you're trying to serve is going to suffer if there isn't some humanity involved. CHUCK: It's interesting that you say that. On Ruby Rogues, we talked to Joe O'Brien a month ago or something about people, personal relationships, and programming and things, and the people part of the programming problem. And it was interesting because he pointed out that given the option between the extremely talented technical person and the person who got along well with people and had empathy for the people on their team, he would take the person that had empathy every time. It's really interesting how, again, this is something that we've all seen as programmers, is that a lot of times the dysfunction, the code, reflects the dysfunction among the programmers writing the code. JENN: Yeah. There's a saying in the educational world that is "You can't teach the task if the relationship is suffering". And I cannot walk into a classroom of students that are ticked off of me for whatever reason, giving them exam too sooner, or whatever. They're not going to learn anything if the relationship isn't a good one or isn't at least a working one that we can go forward with. And that is so true in so many cases. CHUCK: Yup, absolutely. We're kind of getting close to this, so I'm going to ask it: How do you communicate that you screwed something up? Or how do you communicate about something that you screwed up? JENN: I tried to do it ASAP. As soon as I know that I've screwed up, I want to go to whoever it is that's affected and say "Look, I've completely screwed up, I apologize. How do I fix it? How do I make it better?" I've had examples of things that I've screwed up and it always comes out better if you go immediately to the person that you have to talk to and apologize and say "Okay now, how are we going to fix this?" in a collaborative way. That's basically how I deal with it. CHUCK: Yeah, that's more or less what I do. The other question then is, how do you tell somebody else that they screwed up? JENN: [laughs] Well, I guess it depends on who it is. I would be careful as far as the words you use, the language you use, but if you're giving somebody feedback, there are a couple of sort of guidelines. One of them is to ask the person if they're ready to receive feedback. So, ask the person if they're ready to receive it; make sure your context is okay. You're not in front of a whole bunch of other people; you're somewhere where it's private. Or you give them some kind of a warning, "I'd like to speak to you about an issue, do you have sometime tomorrow?" or whatever. So ask permission, give them a little bit of warning, make sure your context is right, and then share your experience of the situation using "I" language. So making sure you're not saying "You've screwed up", but "I noticed that this is what happened; I'm wondering if you can tell me what went wrong". So the "I" language is non-accusatory, it's non-blaming, it's stating your experience of what has happened and maybe even how it has affected you, and then asking the person to tell you their experience of what has happened and then collaboratively together, how are you going to go forward. CHUCK: Nice. That's nice, I like that. So one last question that I want to ask, and this is how it's more to do with the community as a whole, and I'm going to ask this without really going into some of the issues that are still out there surrounding it. JENN: Okay. CHUCK: But there are some difficult topics that have come to the forefront within different programming communities, mostly surrounding diversity, but they're hard to talk about under certain circumstances especially because people are very deeply emotionally involved in the discussion. So how do you have a constructive conversation there without making the situation more difficult because people are emotionally entrenched one way or the other? JENN: Is this a conversation one on one with somebody else? Or is this in a group setting? CHUCK: It's a conversation at large over social media and other places. JENN: Hmm...Okay because social media is always hard to have hard conversations through [laughs]. CHUCK: Yeah. JENN: Again, because it's usually text and not the tone as an issue. CHUCK: Yeah in social media and then spilled out in certain people's blogs -- JENN: I guess, again if you're wanting to put something out there that's in a written format, is giving your experience again rather than saying "This person said this, that person said this", in my experience, this is how I see the situation. And again I'm using "I" language because I can only talk about me, "These are my thoughts, these are my feelings; this is why I'm being pretty clear about that". That would be a more challenging situation than having a hard conversation one on one, I think, with somebody. But the way to stay true to your own integrity and true to not come off looking like you're preaching to somebody else would be to just talk about yourself and your thoughts and your feelings. Because feelings are feelings, you can't be faulted for your feelings; people might not agree with you, but feelings, they just exist. People can't argue with your feelings, (but) they might not agree with them. That would be what I would say. That's quite of a challenging situation if it's something that -- so here's a question: You want to try and solve this conflict? Or, what is your -- CHUCK: I don't know if I want to solve the conflict, but I would like to see people be a little bit more understanding of each other. I think some people do this really well, and other people don't, that are involved in the conversation. So, I don't know -- It just makes me sad that some people get so emotionally involved that they actually say things that are damaging as opposed to just furthering the conversation. I guess I would just like to explore how do we express our feelings even when we're really angry without causing damage to the people? It's a hard question, I know, but yeah -- JENN: If you're doing this in a written format, it would just be basically spelling your own guts about your take on the experience of the situation, "This is how I feel; this is what I see. And exactly what you just said to me, it makes me sad that we aren't respecting each other when we're offering our opinions. Everybody has beliefs and opinions and feelings, and it makes me sad when we're trampling over each other's feelings over this issue." There's always going to be people that do this things...[laughs] CHUCK: Yes, I recognize that. Anyway, I'm just hoping that we can communicate better about this stuff because it is important. Anyway, I think we're pretty much at our time limit. Is there anything else that you guys wanted to ask or add to any of this conversation before we go into the picks? ERIC: There's one thing, it's more just like a caution. I work with a lot of international clients, and when you do that, you have to take into account like culture, different ways like they might to learn English, stuff like that. So I know you need to be really clear and no sarcasm, no jokes, none of that stuff, like cut out your jargon. I'm just saying this because I know a lot of people would just treat an international client the same way. You have to be very careful because I've seen a lot of misunderstandings come across because you might say it and mean it in one context, or better interpret it in a different context and that's like a huge mindful. Because that person, even if they go through like "Oh, am I misinterpreting this?" and they ask their friends who's also in the same country or has the same culture, they're all going to agree, so it's really really hard. So what I always tend to do is, if I'm working with international clients, I boil down my statements to be very direct, very precise and repeat myself in different ways multiple times so that I can be sure that they are actually getting the idea behind my communication and not just a communication. JENN: That's wise. CHUCK: One other thing that I've done with them, and this isn't a bad technique even for native English speakers, sometimes I'm like "I'm not completely sure that what you're saying and what I'm saying are the same things, so can you just explain to me what I just told you so that I know that you get it?" A lot of times, they'll recognize that what I'm really trying to do is just exactly that make sure they understand. And then when they explain it back, they're going to explain it back in a very simple language because their vocabulary is much more limited than mine because I speak English natively. So I'll get back more or less a pretty good idea of whether or not they got what I was saying. ASHE: I think I'll phrase it like "If I understand what you're saying..." and then paraphrase what they were saying. JENN: Yeah. Paraphrasing is such a great tool, too, because you can use it everywhere [laughs]. CHUCK: [laughs] Yup! Alright well, let's get into the picks. Eric, you want to start this off with picks? ERIC: Sure. This past week, I got a book; it's called "Starting and Sustaining". It's an ebook about basically building and launching in like a software product like software as a service, or something like that. It's really great because it goes into detail about getting started, which is the first part of the title, and then actually sustaining it so not just getting to the launch, but getting pass the launch; how to keep momentum up, how to keep your motivation up, that sort of things. So it's a really great book, I'll have the link in the show notes. The other good thing is it comes with fact sheet like a profit and loss spreadsheet so, me having a big finance background, I jumped into that and started plugging in a bunch of numbers for some products I'm working on and you can really quickly see how change in one variable like the price of a plan will affect your bottom line. Or if you have to have support 2 million users at launch, how's that going to kill you on server cost and stuff like that. So it's a pretty good book. I read it, I'm going through the notes on it trying to pull out actual items for myself. CHUCK: Cool! Ashe, what are your picks? ASHE: I have two completely non-productive ones. My first one is my favorite Tumblr of the week, which is "Things Fitting Perfectly into Other Things". [Jenn laughs] ASHE: It's basically objects, completely unrelated objects that fit well into other completely unrelated objects, and it just really works with my OCD very well. I really love that one. [Chuck laughs] ASHE: And then the second unproductive one is, "@PicardTips", which is a Twitter account of Jean-Luc Picard as if he's like the manager at a company and talking about the ways that he ran with the enterprise basically [inaudible] JENN: Awesome! ASHE: I love it! I actually love it! [Chuck laughs] ASHE: And then the third one is, I'm re-reading "The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master" for BookLamp. I always forget all the good stuff that's in there so I'm really enjoying re-reading that one. CHUCK: Yeah, that's a terrific book. Alright, so I've got a couple of picks. The first one is with a client that I've been working with, we had a few minutes so we started swapping YouTube clips of "Monty Python and the Holy Grail". I have to pick that movie because it is hilarious. If you've never seen it, go find 5 of your closest friends who have and watch it with them, don't watch it by yourself. It's way funnier that way. JENN: I love it. I absolutely love it [laughs]. CHUCK: It's a classic. JENN: Yeah [laughs] CHUCK: I saw it for the first time in high school, and I watched it, and I was like "This is the dumbest freaking show I have ever seen!" So I got to school and I'm telling my friends like "I can't believe you guys liked that movie. It was so stupid!" And they're like "Well, who did you watch it with?" And I was like "It was on TV, I just watched it." They're like "No, no, no!" So that night, I was over at one of my friends' house and we watched it like 10 of us together, then it was funny; and then you're quoting it to each other for the next hour. So anyway, it's a terrific terrific movie. The other pick that I have is something that I've been using for -- and I might have picked this on the show before, but I'm not going to go look because I'm being lazy -- it's a system that I've been using to manage some of my tasks both for myself and for Ruby Rogues and for another venture that I'm involved in. It's called "Asana" -- oh, it has been picked on the show because the person who told me about it was Farnoosh Brock who was on the show a couple of weeks ago and she picked it. Anyway, I've been using it and I really really like it. So if you're looking for a task manager where you can like share task lists and things, then this is a terrific one. It has mobile apps and stuff so it's really nice. Those are my picks. Jenn, what picks do you have for us? JENN: I have two. They're hardcopy books and I think they're also available in ebook format. One of them is called "Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work and in Life, One Conversation at a Time" by Susan Scott. She just has some really great tips on talking about things that we should be talking about, how to have hard conversations, she actually gives formulas for different scenarios, and it's just a fantastic book - one that you'll go back to over and over again. So there's that one. The other one is called "The Simplicity Survival Handbook: 32 Ways to Do Less and Accomplish More" by Bill Jensen. He has a lot of tips on everything from productive meetings, how to run a meeting in a productive way, how to get your inbox to zero more efficiently, there's just numerous things; how to construct you emails in a more efficient way. He's just got a lot of the things to talk about. So I enjoy both those books. CHUCK: Great. That's all I need is, more books to read [laughs]. JENN: I know [laughs]. CHUCK: But yeah, sounds like good recommendations. Thanks for coming on the show, Jenn, really appreciate it. JENN: Thanks for having me! It was great. CHUCK: Yeah, no problem. So yeah, I guess we're done, we'll wrap this up. We'll catch you all next week!

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