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  • Writer's pictureTim Buchalka

Do Programmers Need to Have Good People Skills?

Updated: Aug 2, 2019

Dealing with people: is this something you need to do when you're a programmer or can you literally just ignore the world and go into the corner and just start coding 100% of the time? Let's talk about that today.

We're talking about people skills and whether you actually need to have them, but, secondly, do you need to engage with people as a programmer?

Well, the answer hopefully, it's gonna be fairly obvious, is that yes, you will need to engage with people. What may not be obvious is that this will be a large amount of time that you'll be spending in your career. It will be actually engaging with other people.

Now those people can be your boss, they can be other clients, they can be coworkers. You need to sit back and think that this programming, this code that you're writing, who is it aimed for? Are you writing for a robot or you're writing for people? That's right. So, you're actually coding for a human somewhere or a group of people: your boss, your client, whoever it is.

For that reason, you're engaging with that person, you're creating a solution for that person, and more than likely, you're going to have to start talking to that person and get on well with these people as well to try and figure out what their needs are. That's really important.

Like it or not, dealing with other people is a necessity as a computer programmer and there is basically sometimes false solutions that are out there or basically people think people come into the industry that this is a career where you can literally just sit in the back room and code away, but certainly not. You need to learn to work with people to basically give yourself every opportunity and to increase the chances of you getting promotions and so forth because let's face it, if you don't get on well with people, or you're not like-able in some ways, you are gonna struggle with your career.

That's reality, isn't it? I mean, who would you prefer to speak to: someone that you like, someone that you get on with or someone who's a pain in the backside? I think it's pretty obvious that it's the first one, someone that you get on with and you resonate with. So, you want to be that type of person when you're dealing with other people.

All right, so now that we've identified, hopefully, that you will hopefully understand and agree that you need people skills, how do you actually get on with other people? This may not be an easy thing to do if you haven't got a lot of experience.

First and foremost, in my opinion, is to have some empathy with the person you're dealing with. Whether it's your boss, whether it's a client, coworkers, and so forth, think about it from their scenario and try and get into their head, so to speak, to think where they're coming from when they're talking to you, and basically make sure that in all your interactions, you've got some empathy.

Leading on with that, and perhaps very similar, is putting yourself in their shoes. It can be a great thing to do to make sure that when you're talking to someone, you're trying to think from their perspective: what are they trying to achieve, what are they trying to get out of me, because, basically what are they trying to get out of you, and that will help you understand more where they're coming from. Ultimately, that'll lead, believe it or not, to basically better code as well, so it's certainly a win-win.

Again, the analogy I use is if you're a pain in the backside, do you think that's gonna make things easier for other people? Hopefully, the answer's pretty obvious. Obviously, it's not.

The third thing I wanna talk about is listening to other people and I guess it goes, it's very similar to empathy, and basically trying putting yourself into other people's shoes. Listen to people. Listen to what they want.

Some of us developers, we like to think that we're pretty intelligent. I mean, that's the reality, and perhaps we are, but we have to listen to our audience, to our bosses, and clients, coworkers, and so forth, because ultimately what we're doing is we're coding and we're creating a solution to other people's problems and basically their needs. We're trying to meet their needs in a software solution, and they're basically paying us for our time. So, we really need to actually listen to them to make sure we're understanding where they're coming from, and basically it's all about them, and what we're doing is creating a solution.

Another important thing here that something that I see happen often is that particularly we're talking with end users or people who aren't as technical, who aren't programmers. Make sure that you're talking to people at their level. You're not talking about HTML, and CSS, and JavaScript, and all sorts of other things when that doesn't make any sense to the end user.

Basically, frame it to their needs because it's like I'm sure you've seen this before like if you speak to a builder, an architect, or a motor mechanic and they start talking using words that are appropriate for their industry they'll go right over your head. It certainly does for me, like I know nothing about cars other than how to drive one. If someone starts talking about cams, and gears, and any of that, literally anything more than an engine, like a carburetor or something, I'm lost, my eyes start glazing over. But, if they break it down and just make it simple of me to understand, they'll get much better results.

So, it's generally the same thing. Make sure you're talking to people at their level and that actually is a sign of someone who's really good at what they do. If you can get the person you're speaking to to basically understand what you're saying without having go through all the techno jargon that we as developers often use, that'll be certainly a win-win for you.

Again, put yourself in their shoes. What are they trying to achieve? What do they want out of your services? If you do that, basically, you're going to be along the right path. And, just remember that the solutions that you're providing in general aren't necessarily about what's easier for you, it's all about focusing on what they need, and solving your particular client, or boss, or coworker's solution.

So, basically the best way to get results is just to put yourself in other people's shoes, the people that call us, bosses, coworkers, etc. and if you do that and take the time to listen to people, you show empathy, you're gonna go a long way towards really increasing opportunities for your career because you're gonna be a much more likeable person. You're gonna get on better with people.

Let's face it, in today's society it's all about communication and so forth, so good luck with it all. Any other questions, hit me up.

All right, so I hope that helped. If you've got any questions, feel free to leave a comment and I'll get back to you.

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