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Ask HN: Resources for introverted devs to learn workplace politics?
299 points by kjullien on Nov 20, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 174 comments
Hello HN,

I'm a junior dev and have been employed at my current work place for over a year. I love technology and code, less so humans. A lot less. If I had to guess I would say that I probably have some form of social anxiety/autism that makes it really painful/difficult/demanding for me to interact with other people, so I usually try to keep these "interactions" to a very strict minimum required to achieve the tasks I am attributed.

Now, recently, I've come to realize more and more, how much trouble this actually causes in the end for me, as I am perceived as that "odd" guy, that never says a thing, never hangs out at work place events, that you simply give tasks to, and ultimately the job gets done.

As I was searching to limit human-human interactions as much as I could, I ended up being treated like a machine, go figure... I get attributed tasks almost exclusively by sales/marketing people with absolutely no understanding of anything appart from the end result they want. Sometimes that ends up being a 2 word "spec", an unachievable task, some month long back and forths where they realize every other step of the way that what I implemented, which was what they asked, was not what they wanted, etc. So I am starting to get a little fed up by all of this and am at quite a loss when it comes to actually addressing these issues. I try, but I figure that I might as well document myself on the process instead of the usual trial and error one could go through.

Anyhow, as stated in the title of this Ask HN, does anybody have any ressources to recommend to someone that just started his carrier and has a demonstrated history of complete lack of such skills ? Anything is welcome really, books, documentaries, blog post, whatever you might have come across.


I'm surprised no one has made this distinction, but you're really talking about three kinds of communication:

1. Functional communication about the job you're doing

2. Social conversations

3. Office politics

There is overlap: #2 will help grease the wheels for #1 and #3, while #1 becomes #3 when a situation is dysfunctional/you rise in the corporate hierarchy.

Despite the overlap, these are fundamentally different things, and perhaps it will help your anxiety to realize that you don't have to be a social butterfly to do well in an office.

Myself, I've gotten a lot better at small talk (a few years doing deliveries to construction companies as a city-boy with a grad school education will force you to get out of your comfort zone), and I can crack a joke, but I'm still not the life of a party, and I come across as a little weird. Still, I can communicate with people at work.

Be honest, be yourself but do try to get past the hangups you feel, and try to understand what other people care about, how you can help them, and put them at ease. You can be on the quiet side and still do those things.

Beyond that, I'd add that you should find some people who write or speak about workplace behavior. Maybe even read something alien: something from someone in marketing, sales or a "people" job, and treat it like a matter you can study and practice, just like anything else you'd do.

Maybe I'm misunderstanding your point, but there is nothing dysfunctional about office politics. Politics is how you get something done with a large group of people who have different individual goals, that's it. It's a necessity for achieving something greater than any of those people could achieve on their own.

> but there is nothing dysfunctional about office politics.

I think hyperpape was saying it is dysfunctional when "... functional communication" becomes office politics. E.g. if engineers have technical disagreement about, say, whether to use one or two thread pools in server XYZ, then they should be able to sort it out at the technical level.

Failure modes are when (a) someone decides to play politics in order impose their technical vision or (b) the technical discussion becomes a win-or-loose matter that somehow weighs on the balance of political power.

The bit about "rise in the corporate hierarchy" is because at high levels, you aren't making purely technical decisions; decisions will inherently involve steering people rather than things. That means it is right and proper for communication to deal with the political aspect that would be dysfunctional at a lower level.

It's a terminological difference, and I totally get your point of view. I also agree that some amount of politics is the cost of doing business (but per my point about rising in the corporate hierarchy, it shouldn't be something that impinges on the average employee's success).

Negotiation between people who have a shared idea of what goals are, but different ideas of how to get there is a good thing, and I can see how it makes sense to call it politics. Actively cultivating influence by undermining other people, shifting blame and only focusing on your own advancement is bad, and what I was referring to.

That's not how people typically use the phrase "office politics".

My interpretation is that a junior should not expected to be good at office politics.

> ... you don't have to be a social butterfly to do well in an office.

Indeed "social butterfly" types tend to be bad at communication in your sense #1 because they aren't clear about their terms, and don't expect it when others are.

But then highly technical nerd-engineers also often have the same problems; though perhaps for different reasons.

Definitely read How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.

However, just reading a book on this subject is not enough. You will actually have to apply the principles in your everyday life. Dealing with people is kind of like an art. And just like any art (like painting) you can only get better with deliberate practice. Doing this might feel a little uncomfortable at first, but it's how we grow as people. Where I work, employees are offered tuition reimbursement for taking their official courses (https://www.dalecarnegie.com/en). The Carnegie courses helped me take the knowledge from these books and put it into practice. It was incredibly helpful for me, and aided in overcoming some of my social anxiety.

Another user also recommended toastmasters, which is probably an equal alternative if you can't get your company to pay for the courses.

IMO, the book is over-hyped and not that helpful.

It's incredibly easy to spot people who utilize concepts in that book and are not being genuine in their interaction. 'Masks' are a great way to prevent authentic connection.

I've found better utility in a combination of books about positive psychology, emotions in relationships, and analytical psychology.

> It's incredibly easy to spot people who utilize concepts in that book and are not being genuine in their interaction. 'Masks' are a great way to prevent authentic connection.

Then they're not taking to heart the book's principles. An common theme behind a lot of his advice is based in being honest, sincere, and genuine. If they're not being any of those things then they're not doing it right.

There are people whose goal is to manipulate people. And such people are going to seek out techniques for influencing people, including this book. And such people are likely to at least be insufferably annoying if not downright untrustworthy.

But that doesn't mean that someone who seeks to deal constructively and genuinely with people can't benefit from a book of observations on how people work and what does and doesn't work when interacting with them.

Yes, it's possible to take it too far and develop a fake, unnatural persona based on rule-following. So don't do that. But the book isn't about that anyway. For example, one of the chapters is about learning to just admit it when you're wrong. I see that as something a mature person ought to be able to do, and it took me a long time to learn to practice that.

>There are people whose goal is to manipulate people. And such people are going to seek out techniques for influencing people, including this book. And such people are likely to at least be insufferably annoying if not downright untrustworthy.

If I find that my natural manner of interaction is offputting, and adopt a set of behaviors with the goal of not angering those around me is that so terrible?

Sometimes "manipulation" isn't some grand scheme to rule the world - it's just an attempt to carve out some autonomy and security in a world where overly emotional people can dictate your life.

One might argue that a coworker who will harm your career if you don't listen to them time waste and drone about their children or extorts you into social interaction (labels you "weird" or "aloof" if you won't go out after work with them) is the manipulative one - doing harm to force others to meet their emotional, non work related needs.

I don't think it's terrible at all. When I say manipulation, I mean something more sinister. It's hard to define, but it's something like using emotional tricks and playing games with people in order to try to exercise a great deal of control over them. Often the target isn't even aware what's going on, and if they were, they probably wouldn't agree to it.

What you're talking about seems very different from that. Everyone faces situations where it just isn't practical to be completely sincere or genuine. We all have to put up a bit of a front from time to time. I don't think there's anything wrong it, as to some extent it's just the grease that keeps the social machine moving smoothly. In fact, if you didn't do it, you'd be creating unnecessary friction that really serves no purpose. As long as it's done for good reasons, it's fine or even good.

Of course, it's definitely much better if it's give and take, with both sides doing their part to adapt to make things work. If two people work together and one is very talkative and social, and the other is quiet and keeps to themselves more, the quiet person needs to engage in a little conversation, and the talkative person needs to understand that the other person isn't always up for that.

It definitely is over-hyped, but it really gives you the knowledge of what type of tools and communication styles and techniques that other people in your organization are drawing upon since it contains all the pseudo-intellectual bullshit that HBR and other Harvard MBA (or Harvard MBA wannabes) you will probably encounter use and look for.

At the very least, the utility of the book is that it teaches you how to play the game.

> It's incredibly easy to spot people who utilize concepts in that book

How do you know?

To clarify, you don't know how many people you interacted with that utilized those concepts but you haven't noticed at all.

Body language and intuition.

You're right, there may be times I don't notice. I have no data to prove that.

IME, being in the moment and my body instead of in my head made it apparent that we aren't as clever as we think we are in social situations.

Part of his advice is to take genuine interest in other people. What you may be interpreting as insincere, is someone trying to take genuine interest but failing miserably.. hence the practice part. I have found myself in those situations to be honest.

It's better to be honest about not caring about a subject. Behaving naturally is sincerity.

There's always something that can be found for mutual sincerity.

It isnt that they dont care about the subject, its that you care enough about the person that you try to understand why they like the subject.

Some people interpret this to mean you have to fake interest in the subject, or you have to be honest that you don’t like said subject but it can also mean you take interest in the subject simply because the subject is of interest to the person you’d like to be friends with.

Again, this a bit of a skill and takes practice

I've often tried to find better methods of communicating with people, but I'm still struggling with one major problem:

What do you do when someone literally does not react to anything you say in any way whatsoever? I could tell them "Yeah, X sounds like a great idea!" or "Please don't do that, I think X would be very harmful to the project", and their reaction would be the same "OK thanks, guess I'll go do X now".

Then if doing X results in failure and they learn nothing from the experience.

You have two choices, either of which may be right in the circumstance:

1. You can talk to them directly, and say "I feel like we're not on the same page when we talk about X,Y,Z [what can we do to come to an agreement]/[why do you keep doing that?]" (the bracketed parts depend on who has what authority).

2. You bring it up with your manager.

>I've often tried to find better methods of communicating with people, but I'm still struggling with one major problem:

It would help if you gave an idea on what you've tried.

As for your specific scenario, some points:

Don't have a telling posture. Even if you think it is a fact, present it with the posture of an opinion. "This is how I see it." Actively point out you may be wrong, and actively invite opposition "I'd like to hear other perspectives." You'll have to be sincere, because if people perceive you as the person who always wants others' opinions, but always dismisses them, people will very quickly stop offering them. I've seen this happen within a month of a new manager coming to our team.

Also, make sure you're asking open ended questions. Not questions that can be reasonably answered in a few words.

I wonder if there's a way to ask the right questions so they can come to the conclusion that X is a bad idea, on their own and before doing it. For example, asking about the merits of X, then acknowledging them and asking about possible downsides. If they don't mention the downside you had in mind, ask about other potential downsides. You'll also learn more about their decision-making process, how deeply they've thought through it, what weights they ascribe to the various pros/cons, etc.

Related to the concept of Strategic Questioning (https://www.context.org/iclib/ic40/peavey/)

Is that really what is happening though?

They don't react to my statement at all - I don't think they disregard it, I think they don't listen to it in the first place.

Ask someone to repeat back what you said so you know they actually understood what you were saying.

My opinion is that this will come across as domineering/micromanaging, even if you really do need to verify that someone understands things the same way you do.

There are ways to achieve the same effect without an equally bad appearance:

+ You can break the work into smaller chunks, to create more checkpoints

+ You can have a plan that is very specific about what is to be done that everyone agrees to in a written form (if you have a meeting, someone should take notes and have them circulated after the fact)

+ Most lightweight, you can not present the plan in one chunk, but talk it through, taking ample opportunity to reiterate and solicit agreement (if you do this right, the other person will repeat what you said, without you ever telling them to--everyone is happy)

What you are describing is difficulty with 'facilitating a decision' aka selling. I had to find a mentor to effectively learn that ability.

I'm more than happy to refer you to him. Just pm me

Can you give specific recommendations?

Yes! Thank you for asking :)

Starter Pack: Positive Psychology - Know your virtues - https://www.viacharacter.org/www/ - Know your strengths - https://www.gallupstrengthscenter.com/

Relationships - https://www.amazon.com/Relationship-Skills-Workbook-Do-Yours...

I recommend starting with these before diving into analytical psychology (they're more actionable than theoretical)

Absolutely this - it's in the same bucket as The Prince and 48 Laws of Power. Lot of hype, zero useful advice. Some books are worth the hype, e.g. The Art of War.

To the OP - in my experience, it's absolutely enough for a dev to be good to move up. That's the beauty of software development. Now, if you ever want to be a manager or a lead, it's definitely a different story.

I definitely second this, even if it sounds like a cliche. It's how the sociable people's world works. It helps to get insight into their world.

Another vote for this

Careful about it through. People who use those trics too apparently easily make impression of untrustworthy manipulator.

> Definitely read How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.

Don't. You'll become utterly disgusted when you realize how many people use the "hacks" from that book on you and expect certain outcomes. Or if you insist, you can anti-hack them by doing the opposite of what they expected if you are bored (though significantly lowering your chances in the game of politics). Anyway, you'll see a pointless boring game played on all levels. Never seen a (not very capable) person perceivably insincerely asking something in a certain way, self-assured of its success, with arrogant body language, and then considering a person doing what was asked a disposable, predictable trash? Well, that book has something to do with it, even if it seemingly teaches the opposite, but certain agile people use it as a human hacking manual.

Two books that really helped me were Nonviolent Communication (Marshall Rosenberg) and Radical Acceptance (Tara Brach). The specific techniques outlined in the books were helpful, but I benefited more from the mentality that you can communicate the same message in multiple tones and receive different results. Some of my colleagues have also done improv comedy courses and experienced the same outcomes.

I also received some pretty sound advice around three years into my career: "just assume that people mean nothing more or less than the literal words they said to you. Don't read more into it than they actually say." I found that if I felt awkward about a situation, I was trying to read in between lines to find some reason that a person secretly hated me or were annoyed by me. They had never actually said or done anything to indicate that they even thought twice about me once I walked away, but I made up all sorts of stories about them in my head.

Strictly taking everything people say at face value is great way to become somebody who "can't take a hint." The problem is that there are many things people want to communicate but would rather not say because they're likely to lead to uncomfortable situations.

Suppose a coworker offers you mints or gum every time you speak to them. If you only take their words literally, you'll think, "Gee, what a generous person," and miss entirely their true meaning: "Your breath stinks and it's bothering me but I don't want to hurt your feelings, so I'm giving you out where we can both pretend you fixed the problem before anyone noticed."

>Strictly taking everything people say at face value is great way to become somebody who "can't take a hint."

Yes. And yes, that's the way to go.

In my experience, when people of differing backgrounds try to read between the lines, you will get more damage than when things are simply not said. Absence of information leaves you somewhat open minded. Wrongly interpreted information often leads to bad decisions and fruitless battles.

If you've been the person that lots of people attribute stuff to because they read things between your words that simply did not exist, you'll know what I'm talking about.

>The problem is that there are many things people want to communicate but would rather not say because they're likely to lead to uncomfortable situations.

Completely agree. That's why the standard communication trainings/books focus heavily on making it safe enough for the other person to speak. There's no good alternative to that.

>Suppose a coworker offers you mints or gum every time you speak to them. If you only take their words literally, you'll think, "Gee, what a generous person," and miss entirely their true meaning: "Your breath stinks and it's bothering me but I don't want to hurt your feelings, so I'm giving you out where we can both pretend you fixed the problem before anyone noticed."

Sorry - I completely read the first half of the scenario and came to a different conclusion. As will many others.

I'm going to say what one book on communications essentially said: Utilizing tact is a poor fix to poor communications. People use tact because they do not know how to communicate well.

Assuming people mean something that they didn't say leads to situations a lot worse than uncomfortable situations. Taking your example, you'd have a lot of rocky starts with people who are actually generous.

There isn't anything wrong with uncomfortable situations. I have a few moments every day where I am physically uncomfortable (correct response: stand up and stretch). Why should it be a problem if I am emotionally or socially uncomfortable (correct response: clearly state intentions, put a little bit of effort into making other people comfortable).

There is a difference between going out of your way to make people uncomfortable (bad idea), being blunt (not the best way) and being direct (escalating quickly if someone doesn't take a hint - most of the people I've seen doing this are successful). You can make people uncomfortable in a respectful and friendly way.

Basically, if you take everything literally and and the people around you who won't be direct; they are the problem. Try and work with them, but reading things in to what they say is not a great idea.

This goes both ways. If the well intentioned hint goes unnoticed and the halitosis continues to be an issue, then a more direct statement is in line. There are people who can't take a hint, and there are people who can't say what they mean.

I highly recommend improv courses. The primary thing it helped me with was talking without having fear of saying the wrong thing or having people judge me, but it also taught me the importance of _how_ you say things. Even if someone didn't do the courses I would still recommend they read Impro by Keith Johnstone.

> just assume that people mean nothing more or less than the literal words they said to you. Don't read more into it than they actually say.

One of the most brilliant professors I have met fiercely preached this belief, and I can see how it can help some interpersonal relationships. But he took it to an extreme. When somebody asked him whether he thought Trump was racist, he responded "well, has Trump said that he is a racist?". The idea is that whether a person lies or not is immaterial; you should take the persons words as the ultimate truth. He is the most well published professor in the entire university, and an internationally respected mathematician.

I tend to read everything "between the lines," and I think about my professor's words often, because I wonder whether this habit is affecting my relationships.

Not that I can't appreciate what you are saying but it is also true that actions can speak louder than words. It isn't what you say that matters, it is what you do.

It is one thing to say you aren't a racist, but if if you act like one all the time then congratulations, you actually are a racist even if you never say you are one.

If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, looks like a duck.... it's probably a duck.

> When somebody asked him whether he thought Trump was racist, he responded "well, has Trump said that he is a racist?"

A wise response.

It is incredibly easy to smear a person in the “other” tribe.

I've responded to this sort if inquiry before, so forgive the copy-pasta:

>> You sound like you have anxiety problems. What have you done to address your anti-social tendencies? Are you going to a therapist? Do you expect a fairy to fly into your house and magic them away? What job do you think exists where you don't need these skills?

>> Having a therapist does not mean you are crazy, and you don't NEED to be crazy to have one. It means you have having a neutral person who helps you track and set goals, track your moods, and help you process work relationships and events. Michael Jordan has a coach, brain workers have therapists. ( https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18277170 )

One thing I want to make clear is that this is not going to go away without actual effort and planning on your part.

I would recommend going to a therapist and having them help you process your social interactions and set goals for improving yourself. Which, overall, is what a therapist does. Way more than the cliche "Now let's talk about your father..."

A lot of good information in here, as well. Read some books, it's good for you! It makes you smarter! People have taken time to write them for the last thousand years for a reason!

You can spare the time away from social media to read a book, I promise. And the sense of achievement you get from finishing a book feels great.

- "How to Win Friends and Influence People" is a must-read.

- "Getting to Yes" is another excellent book about workplace conflict resolution.

- There are a ton of books about emotional intelligence. Find one that sounds interesting to you and read it.

I'll also recommend "Deep Work" and "Smarter, Faster, Better" for more general workplace productivity management, but feel free to sleep on those if you feel like it.

> "How to Win Friends and Influence People" is a must-read

I'm sorry - this advice, and most of your comment, is bad advice.

I struggled with social anxiety for 10 or 15 years before I "cured" myself, and advice like this is what buried me. Reading books and going to a therapist can supplement your efforts, but if that's your main approach you're going to waste years - and when you talk, you're going to sound like a robot attempting to be human.

Which, believe me, is much worse than your (OP) presumably current state of looking like an awkward mute.

HTWFAIP is like the "cold showers" of social anxiety advice. I'm confident most people who recommend this book (which is literally everyone) haven't actually read it. It's popular advice because it's popular advice, not because it's actually useful.

Dale Carnegie's books were meant for everyday corporate workers to advance their workplace and sales communication skills - not for socially awkward developers who lack base social cues. Not only that, it was in a time with completely different social nuances - unless you really want to be an idiot carrying around a notebook of everyone's birthdays and asking questions 80% of the time your mouth opens.

Social anxiety isn't cured by reading books on emotional intelligence and deep diving into the way you say things. Most self-professed "introverts", particularly developers, spent most of their lives playing video games and sitting indoors. They're not well-rounded people in the least.

When you start slowly morphing your life to be more well rounded - taking part in group activities, getting hobbies, physical activity, etc. the social stuff takes care of itself. Your goal shouldn't be to excel at small talk - your goal should be to get to the point where your life is so cool you don't give a crap how you interact socially.

Burying your head in books and overanalyzing your social interactions isn't going to solve your social anxiety. Go play soccer.

I came to say the same about Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People." His teachings are aimed at being a better salesperson and you should treat it as such. Taking it as self-help advice is going to lead to frustration. (As a guide to sales, it has mostly evergreen, if hokey, advice. It was first published in 1936, after all.)

I don't know if reading a book will fix everything in this situation, but if you really want one, get closer to the subject with "Secrets to Winning Office Politics" by Marie McIntyre.

> I'm sorry - this advice, and most of your comment, is bad advice.

I am diagnosed bipolar and ADHD, but meh I don't really care that much about labels.

What helped me become stable and happy is going to a therapist. What helped me succeed in the workplace is reading books and applying what I learned.

> Burying your head in books and overanalyzing your social interactions isn't going to solve your social anxiety. Go play soccer.

Not everyone is able to play soccer, or naturally athletic. And honestly it comes off as very "pull yourself up by your bootstraps, bro." So fine. You hate therapists and cured yourself. Congratulations. I'm just saying what works for me.

HOWEVER, I strongly agree with your assertion that "introverts" tend to be stuck in their ways. Branching out and trying new activities, joining clubs, and being physically fit are extremely important to a person's mental health. Having more interests other than video games, anime, and internet culture goes a LONG WAY in having better social interactions with people.

> and applying what I learned

This is a big part of it. This sort of improves with practice, but can also decay from lack of use. For me, I've found that regularly putting myself in a position where I talk to people I don't know helps a lot.

>Burying your head in books and overanalyzing your social interactions isn't going to solve your social anxiety. Go play soccer.

If yours had been the parent comment, I would have responded with:

>I'm sorry - this advice, and most of your comment, is bad advice.

Your approach is the approach that is the "usual" approach that friends and family suggest - and in my experience, it often fails. In fact, I would wager most introverts have already gone that route (be it voluntarily or involuntarily).

>Most self-professed "introverts", particularly developers, spent most of their lives playing video games and sitting indoors. They're not well-rounded people in the least.

I hate to use strong language, but this is ridiculous. Most professors are introverts, for example - and most did not play video games. (Not to put too much stock in Myers-Briggs, but INTJ, while being amongst the least common types, is the most represented in academia).

That's not to take away from the authenticity of your experience. But what works for you won't work for everyone. Perhaps not even most people.

Maybe you could write more than three words about your experience and what positive suggestions you have for OP (ie. not "here's what bad advice" and instead "here is some good advice")

Was soccer really the thing that helped you?

I agree with your criticism, but I'm going to add that I think the parent is correct. The thing that helped me the most was joining rec sports, meeting people through that, and socializing a lot. This took years, but I eventually got better at interacting with people. I think the best plan is to find a hobby that involves other people and do it a lot. Invest in learning skills like listening to people, telling stories well, playing party games and joking around with people. The biggest thing it that it takes years. Managing social anxiety is easier when you are better at socializing. That way you get anxious but then realize you know what to do and can push through from repetition. Just like public speaking and stage fright.

Can't upvote this enough. Treating your social aversion like an immutable feature is ridiculous.

If we had a dev who's bad at coding but good at other tasks, what would we do, say that they're just innately untalented or that they need practice?

The fact of the matter is that devs are allowed to be complacent about social behavior through most of the social groups we run in and through our work. We're seen as antisocial because it's a muscle we don't flex.

> What job do you think exists where you don't need these skills?

These jobs do exist. Data entry, library clerk, trucker, for three. These are basically asocial.

Also, there are jobs where—despite being "social" in the sense of requiring collaboration—this collaboration is structured and formalized, such that you just have to "do your part" without any room for getting to know anyone. For example, line cooks, orchestra members, and, of course, soldiers.

I want to address a deeper assumption you've made here, though. You're making it seem like there are two types of people—people who have "solved" their problems (probably through therapy), and people who just "have" the problem and don't know what to do.

But you know what? Social anxiety disorder (as opposed to an environmentally-induced social phobia) isn't something you can "solve." It's something you manage. And getting a job that's less social—or being less social in other aspects of life—is exactly one of the management strategies that a therapist will recommend.

In the words of my girlfriend's psychiatrist:

> As a sufferer of social anxiety, you only have so much social energy, so much willpower that you can dedicate to this task each day. You might be able to overcome a few obstacles successfully, but at some point you'll deplete your reserve of self-confidence, and the next time you attempt to interact with someone, you'll begin to spiral. This creates—and reinforces—a low self-evaluation of your social abilities, a dislike of socializing, and a sense of learned helplessness.

> So, don't do that! Limit your exposure to social stimuli down to an amount you can handle each day, without becoming flustered. Hopefully you will be able to work your way up, but it's okay if that takes a very long time. Choose one part of your life you want to work on becoming more social in—work, romantic relationships, family, hobbies. In all other aspects of your life, restrict the amount of social contact, to decrease the likelihood of any "emergency expenses" of your social willpower popping up from those directions. You want to feel in control of social interactions—and the first step to doing that is to stop having scary, uncontrolled, overwhelming social interactions! Prune your life back to just the simple ones, and build up from there.

> These jobs do exist. Data entry, library clerk, trucker, for three. These are basically asocial.

I've been a librarian for 20 years. It's basically a combo of non-profit retail and fundraising. Unless you're an academic cataloger, asocial people don't last long in libraries.

I absolutely sympathise and struggled with this myself to some extent. One thing that has worked for me is one-by-one adopting particular tactics that I see socially successful people using. And I mean I consciously note and incorporate them individually into my interactions. Eventually they get almost automatic. That may sound crazy and that it would look contrived. But I have never been called on it, no one has ever accused me of imitating another, and as far as I can tell it has been strictly beneficial. Of course, the tactics that work for me might not be the ones that would fit for you. So shop around! Watch other people and try some on.

Just for some examples of what I've adopted:

(1) When you first enter into a conversation, whether with a single person, or a group at a meeting, come in with a big smile. And actually, the worse the situation, the bigger the smile should be. I got that from my boss's boss. Likely does no apply at funerals.

(2) When listening to someone explain something, when they pause, repeat the last few words they said and nod. Like if they say, "We can't add more labor to the Jennings account, because that would pull from the Labowski project and THAT just can't happen!". You (nodding understandingly): "can't happen."

(3) When talking to non-technical people, never say the word "no". Get the idea across, and be just as clear as needed that something is not possible, but do not actually use that ego bruising two-letter word. This grates like hell against my technical mind that prefers clarity and actual reality. But I've found "no" sets business people off like startled chickens.

But I've found "no" sets business people off like startled chickens.

Maybe because they have a more holistic view of the purpose that you’re all there for.

As a developer, your job isn’t to say yes or no. It’s to understand the problem and solve it. If no solution is available within the constraints laid out, your job is not to deliver the bad news like a robot. It’s to understand the priority of the constraints and figure out which one(s) to break so you can solve the problem.

Not picking on you, but many developers lose sight of the purpose of what they do. No business wants or needs any code or developers to write and maintain it. It’s a means to an end, and a flat “no” betrays an inversion of priorities in the developer’s mind.

I write all this as a self-employee developer by the way. It’s one reason I make a lot more than my peers who could code circles around me.

These comments kind of reminded me of the comedy sketch, “The Expert” [1]. When nobody else will say no to an idea your meeting might end up sounding like that. I agree though that you should let people know the constraints and alternatives if you want to help forge a path ahead for their ideas.

[1]: https://youtu.be/BKorP55Aqvg

Frequently they are also fishing, and will be thrown onto a different track if you say no. Code can be made to do most anything, but just because you can doesn't mean it's worth doing. Frequently I find that people bend over and overpromise shit that isn't built, isn't scoped, and is of questionable use, because prospective customers mention something in passing. Then you are on the hook for that ill-conceived feature forever.

Whenever you want to say, "no", just substitute "it will cost more to do it that way, because....<endless technobabble>"

You will get interrupted somewhere in your explanation. When asked for a less costly alternative, pitch anything you would be interested in doing, and make that explanation more opaque to outsiders than the original technobabble. They don't really care to hear what you have to say; they just need to know that there is a technical cover (that only the tech employees can really understand) for choosing the status quo.

Nothing sells quite like an excuse to never change.

I've spent my career dealing with non-technical decision makers, so I understand where you're coming from, but this kind of cynicism and condescension is exactly what I'm talking about.

If you are being asked yes or no questions, the decision has already been reached. Politically, it is best to figure out what the decision is and then support it by whatever argument or rhetoric that seems plausible.

If the question is "can you do X?" then the important part of the conversation, defining what X is, has already taken place. You're just there to support the decision that has already been made. Sometimes your job as an employee is telling the boss what all their options are, and sometimes it is telling the boss that what they are already doing is correct.

If you are your own boss, you are necessarily one step removed from the politics. You can do your customer relationship management directly. Customers that ask "Can you do X?" without first asking "Can you help us decide what X should be for us?" can be refused, or quoted a higher price. Self-employed contracting is in some ways a wholesale rejection of politics, rather than learning how to play better. your main concern is "How do I pay my bills?" rather than "How do I avoid getting fired, and possibly get promoted?" As long as you have enough paying customers, you can more safely uphold your professional ethics.

Politics isn't about doing the right thing. It's about picking the least-wrong thing from a restricted list of bad options.

Not an accurate representation of the type of consulting I do.

#3 I would go further: any time your instinct is to say no, ask yourself two questions:

“Is this really impossible, or am I prejudging the acceptability to the questioner of the cost/effort needed?” and

“Is it likely that the questioner has prejudged a solution to their actual problem, and how can I get them to step back to the real problem, which may have a more-viable solution than the one they seem to be asking about?” (A lot of time, if you are familiar with the business domain, you can see the likely underlying problem yourself and just get them to confirm it, but otherwise you can try to walk them back to it.)

“Yes, it is possible, but it will take X, Y, and Z,” from which the client can decide it is not worth it is usually more honest, as well as more socially acceptable, than “no”.

And, “That would be difficult—but if you want to acheive X, A would provide the same benefit and be much easier to implement.” Can be better than both “no” and explaining the difficulty in th suggested course without exploring alternatives.

Never say 'no', is one of the staple rules of doing improv.


I've noticed that conversations tend to go in interesting directions when you try to make it a habit of not fighting the premises that conversation partners lay out.

Personally how I got over my social anxiety and awkwardness was by powering through. Realizing the things I thought I handled horrible didn't even blimp on peoples radar during or social interaction. Just being me was more then enough, and to stop trying to be the person people liked (not in a popular way, but in a don't want to make people uncomfortable long story). I would suggest you find one person and go out of your way every day to make small talk even if it is just seeing how there day is going. Once you get comfortable with that you be surprise how easy it is to approach others, and expand your social circle.

Also a side note even the most social person can be really antisocial. At one contract I had we had one guy lets call Joe that was the social butterfly would setup after work gatherings for the team and everyone seem to like. One day at lunch one of our co-workers was going through some bad stuff with his family, and Joe was pressing a joke on him that was getting him so upset that I had to hold back the co-worker from beating Joe. After lunch when I got Joe by himself I try to explain the situation, and why the joke wasn't consider funny and such in case it was just going over his head and he didn't realize what he was doing. Come to find out Joe understood, and did it on purposes. Joe actually disliked everyone on the team, and his way of blowing off steam was basically picking really random fights. You wouldn't think it from looking on the outside, but after learning that I start realizing all sorts of things.

Be polite, be considerate, don't take anything personal, don't over think it, and be yourself. I know easier said then done, but you got to go at it if you want change.

"Personally how I got over my social anxiety and awkwardness was by powering through."

I think these are areas that definitely get a lot easier with age.

It may be difficult, but it's often the right approach. Difficult things are often the right thing when it comes to social interaction and dealing with other people. Nobody likes it, and unless you're a Narcissist or similar, it is never completely easy. It tends to take work and practice.

For me, the path out was making myself speak publicly.

1. Politely greet the people you pass by in the halls.

2. Practice small talk:

-Ask others about their lives and thoughts and work.


Try to have at least one such interaction per day. This will be really hard at first, but it gets easier.

Politics is mostly leveraging relationships. You grow them with care and a little attention over a long time.

Here's a secret. Most people are uncomfortable talking to others. You're not alone. But once you make friends with others, interactions will be more enjoyable!

Good luck!

This is great advice. They say the way to become friends is to slowly share more details about yourself, and learn them about someone else, and be interested in both.

The only thing I should add is try and REMEMBER what they told you. If you ask the same question again and again, they will know you aren't really listening, which is almost worse than not interacting.

Also - remember at least one thing from each of those interactions that you can use again.

E.g. when you ask Sarah what she's up to on the weekend, remember she said "canoeing" so you can ask the following week how it went.

I find that helps so much when you're feeling confident enough to move past the "hi how are you?" stage.

The hard part of this Ive found is faking being interested in their answers.

I find it hard to be genuine in these interactions and I think it shows :(

I was in your boat not too long ago (honestly, I'm still there but it's become better), and I realized a simple, yet effective way to interact with people without having to a.) talk as much and b.) put your opinions out there for a possible anxiety-inducing interaction.

It really came down to asking good questions. This allows people to help clarify themselves to you without you having to talk too much. It also builds your listening skills, which is probably one of the more important interpersonal skills you can attain. If you ask good questions, people will seek you out. Win-win for your interpersonal and professional goals.

As for resources, I recommend A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Idea. It's a great book with actionable items to help you ask people questions they don't normally hear, which will help people not only understand you better, but help you understand them better. In the end I wouldn't be surprised if this book helps you help other people flesh out their ideas, desires and needs.

Disclaimer: This is my own personal advice. It is different from what has been commented so far, but hope it might offer a different perspective or angle.

Don't believe your labels, even one's you give yourself. Why do you think you are introverted? Is it because you took some Carl Jungean-esque test like the Myers Briggs and it said you were? Is it because your parents and teachers always said you were "shy"? Is it because you have anxiety disorder or depression? You mentioned this last one might be it but aren't sure -- if you have a hunch, go talk to minimally a therapist to find out.

Toss all that shit out the window. You aren't your labels. You are exactly who you want to be.

If you don't want to be introverted anymore, don't be. As some one who was the "shy" kid and introverted from basically age 4 to 19, mainly staying inside and playing video games, it would probably shock most people to tell them that I consistently score "INTP" -- who cares. Take a pragmatic approach to it. If even the thought of being conversive, over communicating, and going to events exhausts you, that's not introversion that's probably some disorder -- you mentioned social anxiety, for me it was depression -- we are human and we were meant to communicate, be social, and relate to others. I am not saying that to say "so you are wrong" I am saying that so you understand. If there's something deep down there that is the root of that, address it. For me, going to therapy helped. For others -- the root of the social anxiety is a troubled pass: an abusive relationship, a missing father or mother, or a relationship that desperately needs mending. We put up our walls and think these things aren't affecting us, but they do. A lot of people think therapy is for people who have things "wrong" with them. I think therapy could help every single person on this earth, no shame in it at all.

The last advice -- treat it like a challenge. Have fun with it. Hack at it. Try different things. Read. A lot. Listen to your body. Best of luck on your quest!

Co-signing this advice. I was basically in the same shoes as the OP, being the quiet office weirdo for my first few years, usually getting very tense in meetings and so on. These days I'm effortlessly starting discussions, speaking my mind openly in meetings, etc, and have never had it better professionally or socially, at work or otherwise. I won't try to distill my personal transformation into a step-by-step recipe for others to repeat, but at least know that with persistent effort, change is possible.

Also there are 2 sets of definitions I believe of introvert and extrovert. The traditional and the clinical one. I am not sure those are the right labels for the 2 interpretations.

And I think me and the 2 I've replying to all agree with the latter one. Which is independent of shyness or outgoingness. It's purely a mental recharge thing really. Do you feel like you need to be alone after a long time of being with other people.

This is different from the traditional view which is correlated with shyness vs outgoing charismatic view.

Also no one is ever just 1 or the other. But can be all of the above at various points at varying and ever changing degree.

this advice is good and bad at once in my live experience.

Doing is the only way to transform.

But not knowing who you are could get you on the wrong path. Introversion for example could be a learned habit but mostly lies in your genes.

What an interesting question. Kudos to you for your self-awareness and being willing to tackle this. There's a lot of good advice in the comments (and a couple of clunkers).

I found it interesting that you phrased your interest as "learn workplace politics." From what you describe, it sounds more like this is more an issue of communications and process. I work in the consulting industry, where communications and process are often both critical to successful outcomes.

When I was starting out, I found Gerry Weinberg's books Becoming a Technical Leader, Secrets of Consulting, and The Psychology of Computer Programming to be very interesting and helpful. In fact, in one of them (I think it's Becoming a Technical Leader), Weinberg talks about how an "introvert" may actually turn out to be the more effective technical leader because they focus on solving problems instead of talking about them.

Weinberg also talks about not saying "no" (suggested in another comment), and this is something I've found to be very valuable in consulting. Rather than just telling someone their request can't be done, or accepting it mutely, tell them how much it will cost to do it (Weinberg explains this as the "Orange Juice Test" in Secrets of Consulting).

I do agree with the comment about using wireframes to confirm your understanding/spec with your users. There are other techniques that can also work (e.g., creating user stories with your stakeholders), but the common element is that you must communicate clearly, concisely, and cooperatively with others.

Sorry this comment is a little scattershot, but best of luck with your efforts.

Been in your situation for some years.

My anxiety was a drain on my productivity and happiness. In the end, success mean't understanding it thoroughly.

Limiting human interactions is great for the company's productivity and terrible for your own personal and emotional growth.

Some of the personal strategies that helped me: - Going on a technology cliff for a while, really trying hard to adopt a non-IT/non-code mindset. - Separation of work and life - Understanding the people we work with and why we don't all get along. - Your interests will change over the years. What is cool to code-up today may well bore you at a later date. - Physical exercise, this did wonders. Get to the gym, lift weights, get out and run.

Some resources I kept coming back to: - 16personalities.com or any lengthy MBTI explanations. - Podcasts on people and culture. E.g: This American Life from NPR is a well known one. - Books, movies, plays and podcasts that I initially labeled as 'boring' and uninteresting. This was discovered from all the people I did not vibe with.

Good luck OP. You can do it!

I would encourage you to find a mentor who understands you. You'll be pleasantly surprised at how many engineers identify with the story you told.

I think it's harder to "pick-up" the skills by reading generic, broad advice in the form of blogs, books, and more effective to find a person you can trust, who can give you advice on how to handle real situations you're going through.

You'll be happier/more effective in the short term (as the mentor will guide you through these interactions), and you'll see the patterns of how to deal with these situations over the long term (picking up the skills).

You'll pick up the skills faster than you think! Good luck! :)

To that, this is a service I offer: improving the socialbility and softskills of developers and teams.

There's some decent advice in this thread. And no matter what you do it'll take work and change. But if anyone wants to improve on their softskills, i'd be happy to work with you! r.softskilldevs@ruru.name

There has been some good advice on how you can work on your social skills but that's only part of your problem. The other part of your problem is the type of customer you're dealing with. Sales/marketing folks are often highly non-linear thinkers who live and die by their soft skills. So you are probably going to find that how they feel about you is going to dominate your relationship and status with them more than any actual results. In most sales/marketing environments I've seen you can pretty much toss things like logic, formal processes and written specs out the window. The mental space they live in and environment they operate in is very different than say finance or engineering which tends to be at the other end of the spectrum.

Something to seriously consider is trying to get out of that environment... it's not for everyone. You don't necessarily need to leave the company, but rather as you develop your social skills try to start building relationships in other departments and use them to find a path out. Politics are everywhere but the degree to which politics drive things can vary considerably from department to department and is often less dominant in less 'squishy' parts of the business.

There is a lot to unpack here.

Honestly you have a work problem that is less personal and more process (or lack there of).

The key to cracking the poor specs is to return specs to the people making the requests. Learn to do quick and dirty Wireframes and storyboards. It is faster to draw a bunch of boxes and say "If I build this, is it going to do what you want". The first few times you wireframe it is going to take you a LONG time to get a product out - but if you do them for EVERYTHING your quickly going to get fast at the process. There are tons of tools to help you with this process so dont be shy about finding one that works for you and dont be afraid to go to pen and paper.

When your giving these to someone to walk through PRINT THEM OUT - people take paper an order of magnitude more seriously than an email attachment.

As for your anxiety - take public speaking - learn to give speeches, learn to tell a story that holds attention. It is a skill and you have to master it like every other one. You might not ever get to the point of being comfortable but you might be more willing to endure that discomfort if you know that you can be effective.

Take it or leave it: I'd say learn more about yourself, how the "extroverted is good, introverted is bad" culture came about, and how to work with your strengths. One book I'd recommend if you want to start exploring this more is "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking."


Lots of good advice below but given your background you might want to consider approaching it like a project. Set reasonable objectives and goals, track progress, hold yourself accountable, and build on previous skills that you have acquired.

Some other thoughts: - It's super important that you know that the concept of introvert/extrovert is pseudo science, same for "left-brained" / "right-brained"(Ex. https://www.inc.com/joshua-spodek/there-are-no-such-things-a....

- Don't be ashamed of building yourself scripts, or practicing small talk techniques by yourself. It feels awkward at first but really helps to have something to fall back to when you need a plan

- Don't assume that social skills are natural, or innate. Groups like toastmasters exist because things like public speaking are difficult to master.

"Some other thoughts: - It's super important that you know that the concept of introvert/extrovert is pseudo science, same for "left-brained" / "right-brained"(Ex. https://www.inc.com/joshua-spodek/there-are-no-such-things-a...

The article does not offer any citations, and does not discuss the history of the concepts of introversion and extroversion. Even the most basic search reveals that the concept of extraversion is one of the factors of the Big Five personality model, the most influential model of personality that psychology has (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Five_personality_traits). There are literally thousands of studies that have used this model.

Sounds like your problem is more with taking action than having the right knowledge or intuition. Having worked in consulting a bit, you come to understand effective communication is something you just have to do, it's what you're selling. If you had a feeling the "spec" wasn't quite accurate and still set out on just following it - guess what? You messed up. Someone else wouldn't and that makes them better.

You can be an introvert, you might be shy, awkward, whatever. But do you want to do a good job or not? They aren't mutually exclusive.

When all you need to do is say something or ask questions - it doesn't matter if you're a smooth talker or a total mess. What matters is doing it.

I was in the same boat a few years ago, did this class in improv at Second City specially chartered to socially anxious people and it was one of the best decisions I've ever made:


Hopefully they have it in your city, or a similar resource, what was nice was that everyone was there for the same reason. The first class was very difficult, but it became easier and a lot of fun by the end. Hope that helps!

A few things:

1. No one considers you "that odd guy"

2. No one is that worried that you don't hang out at work place events

Your manager and coworkers should see that you get stuff done. For the most part, people don't care that much to evaluate you for being the odd guy or how social you are. People will judge you if your outward behavior are standard deviations off or if you're difficult to work with.


Your interaction with the marketing team shows that you need to learn some confidence about speaking up on things that aren't very clear. It's going to take practice to fix that. Escalate higher up to get guidence on that.

If you like the approach of just diving into the deep end: Toastmasters. https://www.toastmasters.org

My dear boy, kjullien. I wish I was at your work place to help you but alas, I am not so this short message will have to suffice.

There is a lot of different parts for improving your social skills. Just getting out and talking to more people is probably a good way to start. But you probably want specific instructions? :) If your anxiety stems from some insecurities that you can help to reduce that would be a good idea to do. Starting going to the gym was really life-changing for me. Again, I wish I was there to show you how easy it actually is once you get past the initial discomfort.

But social skills, yes. Having a great group of friends whom you can talk to in regular basis I think is an excellent way of keeping those skills sharp. However, if you find yourself lacking on that part and have been for a long time then it's kinda difficult to start. What I recommend then instead is starting a hobby in which you can practise them. I have myself enjoyed improvisational theatre immensely! Hopefully you can find a group that is beginner friendly and you can get over your performing shyness (I am still not there and I have been doing it for two months).

Anyway, probably any hobby that requires high amount of social interaction is good. Impro, I think, forces you to build up that wit and social finesse which helps a lot with any basic interactions. Building up social skills will take time so don't give up when you feel that it's no working. Reading up a book or two won't help you I'm sorry to say, you have to get out and do it - whatever form it might be. It's doable, the only limit will be how far you are willing to go.

I was awkward and weird when I started out, but took some steps to get better. Here's what worked for me, YMMV:

1) Work retail: If you can, get a 2-4 hr a week PT retail gig, working register. Nothing forces you to get better at micro-conversations than having 20-30 short term disposable interactions.

2) Semi-follow your local sports teams. I don't watch baseball or football, but I always know how the Twins and Vikings are doing. If I' talking to someone who's really into it, I just nod along and agree with whatever point they're making about free agency, starting rotations, etc. Earns me a lot of goodwill with no actual effort on my part.

3) Know people's names and have canned responses ready. Salespeople thrive on this. Whenever I see people I acknowledge them and we have an exchange. "Hey Bill! How's life" "Another day in paradise" "At least it's not snowing, right?" Done. Goodwill up, no extra effort. The point of these conversations is to establish basic humanity to both sides.

4) Practice: It took a lot of trial and error to get good at small talk. It's going to be stilted and weird at first, but when it starts clicking it's awesome.

Bonus: Receptionists, maintenance people, and other 'para-professionals' in your building are often invisible, hear a lot of office politics, and are generally fun, down-to-earth people. If you become friendly with them, they generally keep you informed of office gossip outside of channels that are actually competing with you. And they're a lot of fun to go to sporting events with (Shoutout to Tony the Custodian!).

I was in your place and slowly getting better where people actually say that they like interacting and talking with me. What really helped?

1. Meditation and specific one at that called - metta meditation. Most of the time issues lies with the fact that we as introverts feel unfulfilled and think something is wrong with us.

But, there is nothing wrong with us. This meditation helps with that and makes you realize that you are fine as they way you are.

2. Tiny habits:

One of the biggest problem for me was that I would wake up one day and barrel ahead trying to be another person. But the problem is you cannot change in a day. So, you try and try and eventually give up.

Then I read about BJ Fogg's research: https://www.tinyhabits.com/

And I took another route to thins. I wake up every day and take one thing and only one thing I want to do.

Let's say "small talk". Then I think of a person I can try this on. So, I set an intention to "small talk" once I meet this person. And because I am aware of this intention I tend to see how they react. Most of the time it's pleasant surprise which makes me feel good and helps reinforce the habit.

3. The mandatory book:


It has lots of techniques. So, take it slow. It can take sometime before you see the changes.

It's just life at tech companies. You can muddle through it as long as there is a minimum of actively toxic, sabotaging, ruthless political people. At some places there are too many to make it worth it and you have to find another job. A good resource is saving up enough money so you can tell a job to bugger off if you need to.

1. Find a therapist who specializes in adult autism and cbt. 2. One thing that will help is to develop your small talk. Look people in the eye, ask how they are and the default option, “any and for the weekend?” If it’s wednesday or later. If it’s monday or tuesday and the first time you interact, ask how was your weekend? Be prepared to give answers yourself that are more then 1 word and allow some basic questioning and responses. That’s all you need to do to get started. You can literally script it out to start and over time it will get easier. The trick about being an effective communicator is actually to just actively listen.

There are some self help books on CBT too that will help. Find some written by academics from reputable schools.

Another thing you can do is practice this with family and friends, your local barista and everywhere else. Think of it as being this opportunity to have a unique relationship with every person you meet.

What a lot of people do is, instead of giving their own opinion, assess what the most respected people are likely to say, and try to say it before they do. Viewed solely on its performance rather than on its intrinsic worthiness, it's probably a good strategy.

I am currently developing a program/course to deal exactly with this issue (15+ years as a team lead/manager/director, started in systems admin and development). I want to take a few students one on one through the course. Feel free to email me: students@makerleader.com.

I was going to wait a few weeks, until I had more content ready, but might as well start now.

If anyone else is running into something similar, shoot me a note, we can get a 5-6 person study group together and I'd happy to provide some generic basics, and do a deeper dive into the specific issues you may be having (free of charge obviously, hopefully in exchange for some feedback).

I had some 1 on 1 leadership training years back and it was actually very effective - what was particularly horrific (from my perspective) was when I was videoed in one-on-one meetings with senior team leaders.

Definitely think that training helped me a lot and one small thing I still remember to do all the time is to always ask "What do you think?" when discussing things with people!

Firstly Be above the politics. Do your job and just be yourself and be nice and polite to your work mates.

You lack communication.

When you get a crap spec like the ones you have obviously got. You should reject it with the exact reasons why the spec was insufficient.

Tell them politely and clearly what is insufficient about it. If you have a direct superior approach them first with your concerns about each spec and get them to help you to setup a meeting where you hash out the specifics.

There is no magical answer to getting this right. You just need to learn when to be assertive and just be clear, concise, logical and polite and ask for clarification if something is unclear.

It works wonders.

I'm going to provide some contrary thoughts.

1. Your superiors should be shielding you from workplace politics. Developers and engineers shouldn't be subject to most of it. If your work is miring you in politics, get out ASAP. You should always be looking for the next gig, and this is one reason why. This isn't happening to you because you are introverted; it's because your workplace isn't as nice as you deserve.

2. Don't feel bad for being that "odd" guy. Chances are people aren't thinking of you that way as often as you think. One way you can remedy this, however, is to find at least one workplace friend. You don't have to be everyone's friend, but finding at least one person on your wavelength helps a lot. If you don't find this person then, again, find another company to work for.

3. You're not going to change the company you currently work for. If you stay with them, try to maintain a zen-like state while doing unpleasant things like communicating with other departments. While I'm sure you can work on our communication skills, it sounds like they are having you work with people who suck at communicating to engineers. Most of the time, you should be working through someone who can communicate through both parties and know what they want, while you focus your time on engineering. If your company doesn't already do this, it's unlikely that you are going to be able to fix it. Find a different company that doesn't expect developers to simultaneously act as project management or liaisons. Sometimes that kind of thing is necessary in our profession, but if it's constantly driving you up a wall then it's likely the company's problem, not yours. Not everyone should be expected to be good at such things, so don't let it get you down.

I keep saying that you should look out for a better position at another company, which is what you and everyone should do. Why? Not just because there are companies out there looking for people like you, but if your current company wants a developer to deal with that kind of bullshit(yes i know it's subjective), then you can help them by freeing up that position for some other developer who will take it with a smile.

I'm sorry I can't remember the exact title but i read a book on non-verbal communication a while back that was really helpful for learning to read body language and helping me adjust my own body language to come across as more friendly. It's really surprising how much just changing your posture and paying attention to your facial expressions really helps with talking to people. It also helps you pick up on their emotinal state whether they're nervous or anything. Any book that teaches those concepts should help.

Also, not really a resource but something a friend of mine told me years ago that always stuck with me and really helped me with the way I am around people. She told me being shy and introverted isn't much different than being arrogant. It means you're more concerned about the way your words or actions will be perceived by other people instead of actually paying attention to other people. Most people, even extroverted people, get nervous talking to people, especially strangers. The way I see it other people are just as nervous talking to me so it is kinda selfish to sit there and be introverted and make other people reach out to me or talk to me. I've tried to keep this inind over the years when I meet or talk to people and it's helped. Even if i'm uncomfortable in a situation just understanding that whoever i'm talking to probably is also and it helps me relax and usually being relaxed helps the other person relax and where I used to have a lot of awkward conversations with people I find they flow more naturally now the less I worry.


1. The Ask A Manager Podcast and the audiobook on Audible.

2. Take a co-leadership course or read their book http://coleadership.com

Lift some weights. It might seem unrelated, but it's very crucial to improving your ability to deal with anxiety of all kinds. If you don't have experience around weight training equipment, then pay for small group training. Not only will you get a low-stakes opportunity to practice socializing, but the weight training will improve your testosterone production and your ability to regulate anxiety.

I should've done small group training years ago. Such a good investment.

How does lifting weights teach OP about office politics? Seems tangentially related at best...

Going to the gym is daunting for a person with social anxiety and/or autism.

It's often loud, crowded, and besides that it's filled with complicated machines you have to learn about before using.

When I walk into a gym my brainstem screams: "fucking RUN".

Pushing yourself to exercise in front of people who seem more powerful and more confident than you is a good way to gtfo of your comfort zone-- and it's a low-risk way to do so. Because while it seems like a big deal to potentially make a fool out of yourself at the gym, it's not and nobody actually cares about the skinny guy in the corner fumbling around with the leg press, and most of those people you will never see again. The people you do see again have an essential but implicit bond to you: you're all trying to improve your physicality. Everyone there was once a beginner. Zero risk.

You can translate any confidence gained at the gym to the workplace. It shows up in the way you walk and the way you carry yourself in general, and you become less fearful of situations that look, at first, to be very high risk.

A few things come to mind:

1. I agree with the others who said it's a thing you need to practice. While talking to people can be stressful, talking to people about things you're interested in is much less stressful. Find something in common and talk about that.

The connection doesn't need to be done entirely in person. For example, if you and your coworker share an interest in some area (space flight; unit testing; a particular video game; etc.), and you come across an interesting article, write a quick note to that person saying "Hey, saw this, thought you might find it interesting. I like how..." Then when you see that person, there's a good chance they'll say "thanks for sending me the article on Topic X that we both enjoy!" and a relatively low-stress conversation will follow.

2. On the other hand, it helps to set limits. If the sales people you work with tend to be more challenging, see if you can involve your boss, a product manager, or someone like that as a filter. Set-up time on your calendar blocking off meetings. Meet people half way, certainly, but also make it clear what you need to be successful.

I wish you luck but here are some things to keep in mind that you can do if you find yourself not into the therapist/self help stuff for whatever reason.

You can get better at knowing what they need vs what they ask for and push back in the form of raising concerns. Realize this is brainstorming and email/slack suck at this. Get in a room and draw what you’re going to build. Tell them why ask x won’t be useful/won’t work. Lastly, encourage a project manager type person to get involved even if informally. Your boss might be a good person for this if you have no one else. They can do the back and forth and some of what I said previously if you can’t. Also have some sort of project committee so only approved projects get your attention. Lastly, charge your cost to their budget. They won’t waste your time for long when it cost them a bonus assuming your company is setup that way. Get the finance guys involved. If there’s a culture of wasting time/resources they can help come up with a plan and they may own many of these ideas.

A lot of this assumes you’re at a bigger corporate company so YMMV.

Is there a chance that your introversion is caused by not feeling comfortable around a certain type of people? Are you always introverted even with a close group of friends? Chances are that you're not compatible with a certain type of people but there are ways to overcome that. First try to understand where all this is coming from, do a lot of introspection, see a professional if you can. Take a personality test and read about it. However inaccurate the MBTI is, I found that it helped me a lot. Second, I found that my voice was a bad feedback loop, I'd attempt to weakly say something and people would not even hear me and that would make me close within myself even more and when I had the chance to say something I would avoid it based on pervious experience. Eventually I had become comfortable in my unconfortable silence. This can be unlearned and should be unlearned at all costs, it will save your sanity later on. Learning to project my voice has helped me quite a bit. Also being prepared helped me as well.

Have you considered therapy? It sounds like you need some self-reflection skills and a therapist could help you develop those skills.

My recommendation is to go to your team lead/manager and tell them what you wrote in the first two paragraphs. Ask them for help in developing those skills.

My experience has been that learning office politics is more about having a trusted mentor that is good at doing this. You are looking for a mentor that would bring you to meetings and into conversations where you can observe what they do, what the other people do, and take notes. Have a debriefing session afterwards to discuss why you believe each person behaved or said the things they did. What you will gain by this is experience in looking at interactions from multiple viewpoints.

Once you can start predicting those reactions by anticipating other people's viewpoints, then social interaction becomes much easier. You aren't caught off guard nearly as much, and the level of anxiety goes down significantly.

That sounds like a wonderful way to get backstabbed, and suddenly be the one responsible for all the company's failures before you're fired.

Aside from Dale Carnegie, I found "Stealing the Corner Office" very useful (despite the cornball title).

Workplace.stackexchange.com is a good Q/A resource for office conflict and other kinds of workplace issues.

Lots of good advice, so I'll attack it from a different angle.

In my experience step 0 is to acknowledge that these personality traits are not essential parts of your identity. We all go through periods where we are more or less introverted.

That doesn't mean change is easy, but it's an important foundation for making the change.

After that I would focus on practice above all else. I would seek out social activities ( hiking groups, maker groups, charity groups, etc) where you can casually be social. Try to take on leadership roles (e.g. organizing meetups, taking minutes, recruitment, etc).

There's tons of great advice, but much like learning a language, the best way to learn the "social language" is by doing.

Getting this experience out of the office first is a risk-free way to build your social strengths.

Really great topic thanks for bringing it up.

Best Video Blog on how to live a good live, and I think is your real question, is Philosphers Notes from Brian Johnson: https://www.youtube.com/user/PhilosophersNotes

And the simple and best Book to Live with your special Guys in the Company is "Assertivenes at Work" from Kate Back: https://www.amazon.com/Assertiveness-Work-Professional-Busin...

At the End I take a buddhism trail and got rid of this Feelings blowing my emotions to this bad shapes you discribes. Begin with simple Meditation by Youtube lessons.

Live long and prosper Oerb

This show is pretty good, but take it all with a grain of salt and recognize that the experience of the two hosts is not representative of all engineering jobs. Still lots of good advice though:


1. Being introverted has nothing to do with having autism or social anxiety. If you honestly think this is the case, seek out a doctor, otherwise you are just mocking those with an actual condition. Seek real help and stop using this as an excuse.

2. The issue you are having isn't workplace politics. It's because as a developer, you have a responsibility to solve problems.

> what I implemented, which was what they asked, was not what they wanted"

That's your responsibility to speak up and help them solve problems. A developer who only does what people ask him to do will never get far. They are the literal code monkey. If you want to be successful, you need to work with people to help solve their problems. This means understanding why they are asking for things.

3. Honestly, it needs to start with you.

> I ended up being treated like a machine

That's because you probably treat them like machines.

> I love technology and code, less so humans. A lot less.

That's pretty insulting, and people are quick to pick up on how you treat them, and treat you like that in return.

The best thing you can do for yourself is assume that everyone else is honestly trying to do the best job they can, and honestly try to help them succeed at that job. Most people are like this. You'll have people lie to you and tell you to treat people poorly or assume bad things about people, but those are just dicks. Most people just want to do their job, do it well, and get home. Help them do this. Respect them as people who are just as valuable as you. But if your attitude comes off as not caring about their needs and only wanting to get back to he code, well, you aren't really doing your part.

Help others achieve success. That's what a lot of these books will tell you.

Anyways, really, what I wanted to say was to seek out a professional if you think you have a condition, or stop using it as an excuse. It's insulting at best.

I would suggest to read up on requirements gathering, analysis and maybe negotiation. One thing is small talk and socialization - but your problems with marketing and sales are not that. The issue is not that you don't have good enough small talk. It is that you don't know what you are expected to do. That is literally requirements gathering.

Reading up on that should you allow to formalise process of communication a bit more. That in turn helps even to highly social people. It should help you even more.

Lastly, guys "that you simply give tasks to, and ultimately the job gets done" are awesome to work with, even if they don't chat much. Really. Have collegues like that and they are great to be in office or team with.

One common trait that makes introverts introverts is that we all are driven by the relentless desire to be thought of as a good guy, to live up to the image that others have built about us, to live up to the image that you have built about yourself.

Hard to tell why only some ppl 'suffer' from this. Maybe years of praise by parents/school teachers that you are some sort of 'good guy' and you yourself start believing that be to true at some point.

You could do a million things to overcome it but all of those would work shortterm and you would revert straight back to your introvert self as long as you have desire to be thought of as a good guy. Only sustainable "solution" to this problem is solve this issue.

1) Apply your normal engineering problem solving skills. This can be solved like any other problem. Say you’re bad at a certain type of math problem what do you do? Practice and apply trial and error. What’s your strategy? What worked and what didn’t?

2) You need to brute force it. You probably have a tendency to avoid social situations instinctively or anything that might lead to a social interaction. Stop doing this. Whenever a possibility of social interaction arises, force yourself to do it. Even if it’s painful just look at it as training.

3) If you brute force it long enough eventually you end up loosening up and becoming a more fluid, relaxed, and confident person.

The best way out of it may well be to force yourself when you're uncomfortable... Give presentations at tech user groups, as an example. It's uncomfortable, but if you do it a few times, it gets easier. Just make certain you have time to prepare, practice and leave 1/5 to 1/6 of your time for questions at the end and/or interruptions for questions.

Avoiding interaction, will only make you less comfortable with them over time, then the next thing you know, you're well into your senior years and lonely. The one thing you do want to be aware of is not talking too much in social situations... ask questions and listen.

In your case I think the solution is pretty clear. Try hanging out more with your colleagues. If you don’t enjoy it then consider it “work” and part of the job.

You don’t have to stay the whole time or even talk too much. Just make an effort to be there which will be noticed and appreciated. It’s ok to leave early as long as you do so quietly.

The flip side to you not socializing with your colleagues is they consider it a rejection by you.

These events are supposed to be fun and for you they are not. I get that this isn’t fair but if you want to solve the problem of not being seen as a machine you have to try.

48 laws of power

chapter names already give you some pointers

Yes. This book ^ I look at it as a guide for power to not be used against you. This book has greatly improved my life.

You don't need office talk for small talk, try to interact on events and show an effort ( you can leave early fyi).

The thing you want to address is, when they give you a 2 word spec, talk about the issue before implementing it. The chance that your interpretation of a 2 word spec == their interpretation = 0.

And yes, just talk about it upfront.

The flow and what's possible, for hard things, try to get a middle ground, so a 4 week implementation becomes a 3 week implementation.

A 20 minute talk that can reduce 15% of labor is a win-win.

I've reduced a lot of unnecessary labor because of small talk :P

An Idea of How People react to me:

1. All men are born whith the habit of mirroring. It's the way childs learn.

2. When people mirroring you, they mirror your inner fealings subconsciously.

3. When your personal fealings are in a bad shape people see it and do not want to share them by the automatic mirroring process.

4. So first at all find ways to get in an inner good mood, find peace and love in your inner selve and the people will want to mirror you.

PS: That is why smile allone is an bad advice. The inner mood they will mirror would disface every trained smile technique person.

The Syntax podcast just did an episode on some strategies for getting along at work.


My one piece of advice is to treat the problem like a really hard programming challenge -- it's a problem that definitely is solvable by you but will take a lot of work and learning a lot of new skills. You may never enjoy it or be the best at it, but you absolutely can do it.

Clearly you're on this path already by asking the question.

I suggest you read "how to talk to anyone, anytime and anywhere" by Larry King. It is not a bs self-help book. It is written by an expert in a very professional way. There are actionable insights in it. I am a senior engineer, I used to find it hard to make conversation but now it's easy. The main take away for me is that the easiest way to start a conversation is to make it about the other person, people love to talk about themselves.

You will never stop being treated as a machine, especially in big corp.

As for the anxiety, stop trying so hard. Your goal is to find people that you actually like. You can’t really be friends with people that you despise or have nothing in common with.

Look for what people say or do in common areas as a kitchen or a chat and try to relate without pushing yourself.

Play the game on your own terms and keep in mind that it’s not really a competition. You’re trying to have fun.

It's easy.

- Lie

- Cheat

- Take credit for other people's work.

- Deflect blame to other people.

- Make friends with other jerks in the company and collaborate with them to distort facts in your favor at the expense of value creators within the company.

- Once you climb high enough in the hierarchy, start using your 'friends' as scapegoats for everything that goes wrong; you gotta keep feeding the beast... Even when the meat gets scarce.

- While you're doing all this backstabbing, be sure to keep a smile on your face.

People are going to downvote you because it makes them feel bad, but I've seen people advance like that IRL.

To able to utilize these skill without getting into trouble yourself is hard. I myself have no issue of using these skill, but its not easy. There are lack of courses or books to teach you this.

Just talk loud, talk a lot, smile a lot, keep complimenting your superiors and berate your subordinates often; that makes you look tough and your superiors will love it.

Many techies (myself included) do not like smalltalk. There is no point to it. An interesting theory about that is "The Psychopath Code" by Pieter Hintjens [0]: People do it because it makes detecting psychopaths easier. You could try to turn it into a game. Find the psychopaths at work.

[0] http://hintjens.com/blog:_psychopaths

Been there, done that.

This is not something you can solve and/or fix with a book.

Find a good job coach, whom you trust (VERY IMPORTANT), to talk to and practice with and then practice, practice, practice in, well, practice.

Also don't expect to "magically" get a lot better at this stuff. It will take a while. And with "a while" I mean months, not days.

But you really should start with finding a good job coach who you can trust.

Good luck!

The most basic and familiar form of office politics is a good bug report: it lays out exactly what the problem is, why it’s important, and proves that you’re a competent, motivated partner in figuring it out, not just “holding it wrong.” This is bread and butter of the political task of getting someone else’s resources allocated to help you.

Human interaction isn't so hard, you just need to view it as a problem to be solved, just like everything else.

There are some good YouTube videos that break this stuff down: https://www.youtube.com/user/charismaoncommand

Human Nature -- Robert Greene --all you need and you will have to accept it not just Grok it intellectually.

Break your comfort zone. Try taking some improv classes. Once you break the ice it actually becomes fun.

You might also be interested into this comment someone made on a different post:


This is a very tough question. When I was a lot younger I had a similar question regarding dating. Let me transpose the advice from there what will likely have some added value for this as well. I have friends who are like you, I also see what they do (not much). It pains me to see it since I was in a similar situation once in my life. Now I'm still weird and odd but I'm also social! :D And people seem to like that.

A couple of tips on finding truth in the social arena:

1. You have to find the truth by experimenting yourself. Set social experiments up deliberately and in a controlled environment [1].

2. Psychologists are mostly wrong due to the replication crisis. I didn't know this at the time, I've suffered the consequences I'm overfitted to detect human biases. I found that I know how people work much better than any psychology book (I did a bachelors in it). I also tested/experimented a lot more than any psychologist because I don't need to publish papers.

3. Self help books are about as wrong as psychology text books. My tip: go for the great classics (e.g. Dale Carnegie), ignore the rest unless you know that that person has a very similar profile like you.

4. When you experiment be ethical but err a little bit on the side for choosing for yourself. Chances are that you're too careful anyway. Slight transgressions are fine as long as you learn from them and rectify your mistakes. If you can't make mistakes then you're not in a place to learn anyway. My worst transgression was saying outrageous opening lines and looking at the effects of them [2].

5. Find books via HN just use the search bar or some aggregated data analysis on what books HN uses. That'll be a good application of 3.

With these tips you can find truth: ignore most books, test things yourself, do take the books for people who were like you (that's not an easy tip), err on the side of making mistakes. Personally, I haven't found an easier way and I learned this over 10+ years.

A couple of tips on dealing with anxiety:

1. Try to find core positive emotions that are natural to you. Mine are (in order): curiosity, fantasy/imagining things and playfulness (playfulness is already tricky). Identify it, frame everything like that. Curiosity goes really well with finding truth and experimenting. "How does this work?" is a question I often asked and tested.

2. Learn meditation, also helps in boosting emotional intelligence. I can write a book about it but I'll recommend you one instead. Search Inside Yourself from Chade-Meng Tan. Best book I know on the topic (I read a lot of them).

One tip on politics itself:

1. I don't know where I read it but it stuck. Social skills and political skills are different. There are people with good social skills who are not good politically. The reason is that political games are about groups not individuals. Learn how to divide and conquer (i.e. talk to multiple people 1 on 1 and push your ideas through that you are convinced about and think are good for the company).

On finding coaches:

1. Coaches are very hard to find. I've had several of them. The one that worked best for me was the one that showcased and demonstrated what was actually possible by doing it himself. All looked really social and good. But you need someone who's able to demonstrate and give real-time live feedback even during the conversation (in a covert way via text for example for obvious reason, or in ear also helps though I never tried that).

On using advice:

1. I am a sponge and would be too easily influenced by advice. A couple of questions you need to ask yourself for taking advice: (1) does the advice make sense to you? If it doesn't then why not (possibly do a couple of Google searches). If it still doesn't then leave that particular advice as on hold. Don't discard it but put it on the backlog and don't use it.

On dealing with people you tell that you're doing this:

1. If people are weirded out that you're methodical and as scientific as possible about this then discard that opinion. It's tough for other people to know what you go through since they never had this problem themselves. Even good empaths may not be able to empathize with you (though some obviously do, they are good empaths after all).

[1] i.e. not work but with strangers or if there can't go too much wrong then in your work environment.

[2] Spoiler alert: almost all my predictions were off, you can say some ridiculous stuff and have it do something other than completely mop you over the floor, friends who struggle with this don't believe it. Then I show them and they still don't believe it. Then I show them 5 to 10 times and they might consider believing it some day. Please experiment yourself.

I haven't seen anyone post this here: Consider seeing a therapist. If you think you might be on the spectrum, having a professional diagnose you can go a long way towards understanding how you specifically are having a hard time with social interactions.

Talk to a psychotherapist. You are having social anxiety and they are best equipped to help you.

EDIT: It's also important to note that introversion does not equal poor interpersonal skills. It's about what environment an individual feels rejuvenated.

The best advice (though likely to be unpopular) is learn the basics of evolutionary psychology and body language. There is a lot more to learn after that but if you don't know those, there is too much you won't be able to see.

Isn't this like learning assembly to program python?

It’s more like learning the alphabet if you want to read.

Marketing should be working with a UX design team to get the design specs right, so devs aren't burdened by having to keep redoing their work cause some marketer didn't know what users actually wanted/needed.

Highly recommend "The Passionate Programmer" by Chad Fowler.

This will be a controversial one, but have you tried alcohol?

The next time there’s a staff night out, go to it, drink, lose your inhibitions and talk to people.

Not that this comment is good advice, but that this comment is downvoted, but the comment about being a backstabbing, lying, traitorous arse survives… We have a long way to go as a species.

A drink with coworkers is probably okay. "lose your inhibitions", however… no. Remain in control of your faculties, please. I've had to help more than one coworker who has drunk too much, and it is obnoxious, and it does lower my opinion of that person.

Don't feel obligated to drink alcohol, either. I wouldn't question it, and there are plenty of drinks that visually aren't distinguishable from alcohol if you need a cover (e.g., coke vs. rum and coke, sprite vs. gin and tonic), and a drink in the hand is a nice stressball of sorts. (And I've used "I have to drive later." as a reason to not have alcohol, but still enjoy the company of others.)

Yeah sorry, you're 100% correct.

Lose your inhibitions is bad advice, my point was more to go to the social gatherings, make an effort to relax and talk to people.

It's purely my own experience that alcohol helps with this, as I can identify with OP, and I've found alcohol to help with my own anxiety in these situations, and has helped me relate to people and make friends.

I don't want to be judgmental, and say this with the mildest of intentions (grandparent is just trying to make a contribution, and it would be good advice for some people), but as you point out - "lose your inhibitions" is worse advice than "be a traitorous arse". To someone who doesn't know how to do something, 'alter your mental state and hope that works' is useless advice because holding a drink doesn't magically teach you anything. In addition, the realistic worst case scenario of "be an arse" executed badly is it doesn't work out for you and you stop. The realistic worst case of purposefully upping your alcohol intake is physical danger and lawsuits if you are purposefully exploring new levels of inebriation.

Plus the original question is office politics. Socialising is a small component of office politics if you don't want to socialise.

That's an interesting way to look at it, and you're not wrong. The way I was considering it when I wrote the post was more along a consideration of the Golden Rule; that is, "drinking" is really only a danger to yourself (at least, to some degree; it is possible, I suppose, that you make decisions while under the influence that do effect others), whereas the other comment I was referring to is pretty encouraging active harm to other individuals. (Although, I suppose if you expect that that's the playing field, one could argue that it isn't a violation of the Golden Rule? That is, if it is "par for the course"? Nonetheless, it seems like a good way to ensure limited collective success, which is perhaps my real objection to it.)

Honestly, a good tip-- that is, if you're not prone to drinking alone, or to addiction.

It's a good tip because the OP needs just ONE interaction where he shows his colleagues that he is capable of the kinds of pleasant social interactions that they are.

This would break the ice for OP as well, knowing that his robotic reputation has been proved not totally correct, and will perhaps allow him to relax somewhat and take more risks socially.

Was going to say this, most office offsites have alcohol. Drink coffee with it if it makes you sleepy. Don't have more than one drink with each course. Don't drink while actually in the office (!), if you socialize enough at the offsites and smile at people, they won't care that you don't small talk at the coffee machine.

> go to it, drink, lose your inhibitions and talk to people.

Be careful, this can go sooooo badly!

Now you have two problems.

I am not very political, but I really enjoyed reading The Fixer. It might help you understand politics as it relates to technologies you know.

I don't have particular resources for this type of issue but a few pointers which might help:

1 - Have a clear definition of your jobs remit in your own mind and be willing to say no entirely or partially to requests which are impossible or poorly defined. If someone hasn't given it thought themselves, why should you? This should be phrased in a polite manner and if they don't respond followed up after a few days to ensure blame cannot be placed on you.

2 - Identify key figures in your environment who are gatekeeprs/yield power in the business. These are people who you want to befriend or destabalise/reduce their power over you.

3 - Get some social skills outside of work, socialising is a skillset and can be developed regardless of the person. It is easier for some and more difficult for others but with practice you will improve, why not try a local tech club to test the water and maybe have some fun?

4 - Go to work events once you have some social skills. If you're terrible at even having a short, average conversation about the weekend for example, you will just be known as the awkward work guy who comes to events but no one likes..

5 - Understand what people want/their motiviations and their routine; If you can understand what makes a person tick and how they function, even on a low level you can use this information to either build rapport or to introduce chaos. An example of this would be a persons morning routine, if you know someone, lets say your boss arrives at 7:58 in the morning like clockwork, puts his bags by his desk and then gets ready to grab a coffee, why not ask him just before he puts his bags down and goes through the coffee thought process? You can talk about how the weekend was, maybe something funny that happened in the office etc and build rapport but also provide an outlet for venting.

Dale Carnegie classes, his book on how to win friends and influence people.

It takes work

Would recommend the book: The Courage to be Disliked.

dont interact but learn how to say no in non offensive manner so you dont get more tasks assigned to you than your actuall half

i hate office politics and never was good at it. Thats why i decided to work for myself and start my own company.

This is a throw-away account. I have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and don't disclose that to the community or my employers. My advice might be helpful as people with my condition have difficulty in the workplace.

A part of becoming a senior/lead developer is, in my experience, largely a social endeavor. At some point the problems one faces are not tractable for a single engineer to face alone. There is a finite limit on your time and many unknown problems that can overwhelm even the most astute and exemplary developer cannot be avoided. This is where you need to learn to delegate responsibility for certain tasks to other team members and learn to lead everyone in the right direction towards a common goal.

Your intuitions are correct: this is a skill you will have to learn and good on you for asking for advice. I treat it like another engineering problem: a distributed consensus protocol with high latency in the average case.

For reading material other people have recommended _How to Win Friends and Influence People_. I have found the advice in this book to be practical for dealing with interpersonal relationships in the workplace and learning how to gain and use influence. Influence is a social currency that I have found to be effective in negotiating disagreements and convincing people to adopt your ideas.

For learning how to work in a team as a leader or manager I also recommend _Extreme Ownership_ by Jocko Willinck [0]. It has provided me a framework to use which has been helpful as my career has transitioned into leadership and management. I have been fortunate enough that my team has been receptive to these practices although getting there has been difficult.

One of the harder lessons to learn is how to deliver constructive criticism and feedback in an engineering context. This is especially difficult for someone like me when communicating with junior engineers on my team in code review. It's one of my greater weaknesses but is sometimes an asset when I do succeed at showing someone why type theory matters or how an appropriate use of a data structure can improve performance. The problem I have the most difficulty with is when a senior colleague on my team insists on a factually incorrect assertion and forces their opinion by using misleading questions and rhetoric. Unfortunately I have not come across any books or courses on constructive criticism to share.

I do find the Recurse Center's Code of Conduct to be a good guide as well: https://www.recurse.com/code-of-conduct

[0] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23848190-extreme-ownersh...

Dealing with people is challenging and exhausting however having a framework for interactions and setting expectations ahead of time helps make these challenges po

> One of the harder lessons to learn is how to deliver constructive criticism and feedback... I have not come across any books or courses on constructive criticism to share.

I strongly recommend the book Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen. It lays out a framework for both giving and receiving feedback.

I also recommend their earlier work Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most. In it they present a psychologically astute picture of what's really going on in conversations that make us feel uncomfortable, and they do so using examples, language and priorities of the workplace. They give very good advice for preparing for and navigating these conversations.

Here is a study guide they created for people who want to practice the book's strategies:


I've actually been thinking about starting a meetup to find people to practice this stuff with.

I have your exact problem. I've been diagnosed as autism type I as well (equivalent to asperger's).

There are lots of good tips here, and often people suggest reading books and whatnot. Personally, it looks a bit overwhelming. I'll give you my advice just to add to the torrent, and hopefully you'll read it. I hope it's a bit gentler.

I'm not currently employed (still in university) and so this little problem of mine has not affected me as much as it may have affected you, but I recognize it will likely become a problem in the future, so I've been taking steps to remedy the thing.

1) The first thing I did this semester was start a conversation with the guy sitting next to me in class. He asked that I save his seat. When he came back, I asked what program he was in and etc. and got his Facebook contact info. Now, I've gone to great lengths to avoid him outside of class, but we talk in the ten minutes before the lecture starts, and I have found it's a good balance of pain vs gain. Take home: 5-10 min of meaningless conversation is better than nothing.

2) Someone else came up to me this semester in another class, asking about the homework. In time, I found that sitting next to him and chatting idly was actually relaxing. He is the kind of guy we all need in our life-- he simply doesn't have judgments to doll out to you, and will happily converse about whatever comes up, and happily sit silent if there's nothing to talk about. I make sure to ask how he is on occasion if I don't see him around. Take home: When you find someone that doesn't make you want to jump out of your skin, attempt to maintain your relationship.

3) Maintaining relationships: If you don't like social obligations but still want to maintain relationships to the degree that you're not treated as a robot in the office, the best thing to do is ask questions of the other person, the answers to which, of course, you are personally and genuinely interested in. I ask people about their day to start, and then I ask questions about their future: what do they want and why. This helps me understand their motivations and puts me at ease because the knowledge allows me to predict their behavior more accurately. Another thing is to just ask about people's days whenever you see them. When people give you a genuine response to the question, then you know you're on their good side. You can get on their good side by acting interested in them and asking about their day!

4) Don't push yourself to take on too many relationships or to get close to a lot of people. Keep it as simple as possible. Maintain as much distance as you want while at the same time edging slowly out of your comfort zone. Say hi or smile at people you pass in the office. If someone comes to your desk to give you a task, ask them how their day is going, SMILE. It's these little tiny actions that accumulate in the other person's mind to form a picture of you. You don't need to do anything huge.

First off, put it into your head that people skills are critical, for both professional and personal lives. Make it a goal for yourself to develop them.

Below are a few things that I had found helpful:

1. Book "Human Relationships" by Steve Duck [1]. The author of the book says that his students were suffering from the same people/relationship issues as everyone else in spite of the relevant education in psychology. So he reasoned something is all wrong about the way social psychology is taught, and wrote this book for helping people as oppose to teaching them. One impact on me was learning that the percentage of people feeling shy about initiating a conversation at some point in their lives was nearing half of them. In other words, the person in the front of you could also be just waiting to talk to you. I had read the first edition of the book which had very natural tone to it. The fourth edition [1] seems much refined for rigor, which seems impacting the basic premise of the book! So consider buying an older edition.

2. The challenge for me wasn't just difficulty in talking, but a limitation of interest and knowledge outside of the STEM fields. This then becomes a vicious cycle since you would not talk to people and not even learn about topics outside of work. Build some common interests outside of work, may be just by reading some books in isolation. Read a lot of news, as a lot of conversations build on it.

3. Early on, I used to be the silent one in many conversations because of #2 above. I started participating in the conversations simply by asking questions on what I did not understand. Asking too many questions annoys people, so need to be balanced. Read about the discussed topics offline afterwards as needed. Over the time, you get to understand those conversations, will start participating, and also, those people would start accommodating you while calibrating themselves for you with the skill level you have.

4. The people around would accommodate you, as far as they do not see it as your lacking interest in them. It's better to be seen as a person lacking people skills rather than as one lacking interest in them. Try not to miss lunches and dinners opportunities at work, even if you are not talking much there.

5. One-to-one conversations are easier. Break the ice with those. Soon you would be comfortable in a group setting where you are comfortable with say half of the people.

6. Join social media and make connections with all those people. Being behind a keyboard instead of face-to-face helps because you get more time to think how to respond. Do genuinely participate, click Likes, etc. This will not only develop connections with those people, but also slowly make you better for live verbal conversations.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Human-Relationships-Steve-Duck/dp/141...

Sun Tzu has several insights.

Make friend with people good at it.

Also work on being more at ease. "Limiting human interaction" is a bad route to go down to.

And finally on a positive note: learn to love your anxiety. Listen to what it says to you, knowing that its will ultimately help u do things better. People with no anxiety dont do things well. Learn to use it and master it to be better. Dont run from it


While it is fun, I don't see how that will help ^^;

Dead people don't fret about soft skills.

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