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Ask HN: What people skills do you wish you learned earlier in your career?
539 points by mparkola on July 23, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 423 comments
For the past several years I've been putting in a lot of time into learning and sharing people skills (without the bullshit).

I'm interested in skills from dealing with your own emotions, through communication with close co-workers to high-stakes negotiating.

I'm curious: what are some people skills that you wish you had learned earlier in your career or that you wish your co-workers had easier access to?

Also: what are your favorite books and/or other resources that helped you?

“How to win friends and influence people” is an absolutely wonderful book I wished I’d read 10 or 15 years before I did.

Some important ideas

- Just, get along with people. A bit reductionist but if you don’t place a high priority on getting along with people you certainly won’t learn how. It really is a habit, and it’s incredibly effective to remember the Cognitive Behavior insight that when you don’t get along with someone, you are almost always choosing not to get along with them ... you know exactly what to do to get along with them and just don’t want to do it.

- Conversly, not everyone will like you and that’s ok. You aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. Being ok with that is an important mental tool.

- To crib from 12 steps or The Four Agreements, nothing is personal. DON’T TAKE ANYTHING PERSONALLY. Even if someone hates you, it’s not YOU per se. It’s their experience of you. It’s not personal.

- It may be fair to say that it’s impossible to win an argument. Getting your way by “winning” an argument seems to come with an unacceptable cost attached most of the time. Try getting good at “yes and” style conversations where you run with the other persons point and build upon it creatively, it tends to make conversations more interesting than debating people. Truly, I find compulsive disagreement to be a boring conversational style.

- Take personal appearance seriously, and view it as an ongoing project too. So many people fall in to the trap of thinking they can avoid dealing with signaling, which is silly, you always are signaling so best take a look at what you are sending out there. I think it is very psychologically healthy to care for yourself, the act is good for you, and you can change how you present yourself gracefully as you age, which people screw up all the time and it makes them look older, somehow, instead of younger.

Throw away for obvious reasons. I find almost everyone intensely boring. How am I supposed to get along with people without feeling like a complete fraud?

Small talk, feigning interest in kids, in sports, in wine, in whatever useless dull, pedestrian thing a coworker is into.

I find that anyone who isn't a PhD (or could easily have been if they hadn't gone into industry) might as well be a paper shell. I can put on a mask of civility and charm when needed, but all I really want is to talk to deeply self-aware people struggling with the boundaries of human knowledge.

It's like you try to peel back a single layer of why people believe what they believe and there's nothing there. No reflection, no relevant context, no mirror provided by an intimate knowledge of history or literature ... just nothing.

Nearly every time I work up the motivation to try to really get to know someone who I think I may have judged too quickly I find religiosity, passive consumerism, an unexamined life, something so distasteful that it takes ages before I can do it again.

How do people put up with it?

No offense, but I mean this, earnestly: get over yourself.

If you talk to a person, and the conversation is dull, they might be a boring person. If most of the people you talk to seem boring, then you are the boring person.

You bemoan that you find almost everyone a "paper shell". And yet you are the one who has restricted your opinion of interesting people and topics with a PhD attached to it. You dismiss pursuits that have spanned all of human history like sports, family, food, religion as "pedestrian". That is indicative of an incredibly shallow and one-dimensional person. If you "peel back" the layers of people and frequently find nothing, that doesn't mean their is nothing there, it means you don't have the perception or ability to find it.

You say "all I really want is to talk to deeply self-aware people struggling with the boundaries of human knowledge", and those with "reflection" or "relevant context", and yet you seem to have done little to no reflection, have limited relevant context outside your very limited definition of what is interesting, and have little to no self-awareness. You have constructed a fantasy where everyone else is inferior and uninteresting rather than accept the reality that you are likely a dull, uninteresting person who isn't nearly as intelligent as you believe.

I strongly recommend you take a step back, and seriously challenge your current beliefs about your relative intelligence and depth, and ask if the problem is not that others are dull, but rather you are a shallow, uninteresting person without the breadth of interests or life experience to relate to others. Doing so may open up avenues you have closed to yourself previously and help you relate to others more easily.

This is the only proper response to OP's throwaway rant.

If you find a problem with most people you meet, the problem's probably with you.

Well, there are only two ways to respond to such comments:

1. The inky "proper" way (as you say)

2. Complete and utter lack of words to respond.

Is there anything in between? Doubt it.

As I noted earlier, take a screenshot and post it on "/r/iamverysmart" - then crosslink it back to this thread.

Though that would probably be downvoted to oblivion here; you might even get banned - not sure if that's considered "against the rules" of HN or just "really bad taste"? I kinda suspect the latter, and probably a warning from a mod or two...

> 2. Complete and utter lack of words to respond.

> Yikes.

I see what you did there

Not sure how this is helpful to the parent comment.

> If you talk to a person, and the conversation is dull, they might be a boring person. If most of the people you talk to seem boring, then you are the boring person.

And I don´t really understand how you can come to that conclusion. That´s like 2+2 = duck

In fact,

> have limited relevant context outside your very limited definition of what is interesting

If the person in question has a limited (according to you) definition of what is interesting then asking him/her to "expand" the notion of what is "interesting" to match or be as "encompassing" as your own definition is not helpful. It isn´t even a viable solution really because you are not the same person.

And one more thing:

> You dismiss pursuits that have spanned all of human history like sports, family, food, religion as "pedestrian"

Some people are not interested in those pursuits and they are, in comparison, very "pedestrian" in terms of complexity. Now I enjoy all things related to food for example, but I would stab myself in the ears if I had to talk to people about their eating habits for more than 30 seconds once every 13 years.

Some topics are simple, others are more complex. The parent comment clearly enjoys pursuits that are of higher complexity and feels as if people in general do not share that interest and hence to him they seem boring. Asking him to change his personality and what he "enjoys" just so that he can fit in is so absurd to me because it hints at the idea that you should surrender your individuality in order to fit in with the group. An idea that I don´t really appreciate all that much!

Edit: and adding no offense at the beginning of your post does not make it less offensive. It just makes seem passive-aggressive :P

> Some people are not interested in those pursuits and they are, in comparison, very "pedestrian" in terms of complexity.

> Some topics are simple, others are more complex. The parent comment clearly enjoys pursuits that are of higher complexity and feels as if people in general do not share that interest and hence to him they seem boring.

I think it's silly to try to organize interests by some hierarchy of complexity. You're dismissing the topics "sports, family, food, religion" as "pedestrian." Any one of those topics could be discussed with staggering levels of complexity. Just like nearly any other conceivable topic, the only limitation to the "complexity" is a person's willingness to engage deeply with the topic.

If you (or anyone) doesn't find a particular topic interesting, that's fine. But let's be honest about the fact that it's a lack of personal interest in the topic that makes it boring for _you_, and not some inherent "lack of interestingness."

I identify with the feeling that not everyone thinks as deeply about things as I do. But I think it's fair to say that nearly everyone has some topic that they care deeply about and are capable of having a deep and complex conversation about. Just because interests don't always align doesn't mean that the rest of humanity is a bunch of paper shells.

> Some people are not interested in those pursuits and they are, in comparison, very "pedestrian" in terms of complexity. Now I enjoy all things related to food for example, but I would stab myself in the ears if I had to talk to people about their eating habits for more than 30 seconds once every 13 years.

There's no depth or complexity to non-PhD-esque pursuits and interests?

I moved from Reddit to HN because commentators here seemed more self-aware. It's threads like these that really make me question that decision.

> I moved from Reddit to HN because commentators here seemed more self-aware.

As someone who has participated in discussion forums of one type or another since the 1980s on dialup BBSs - let's just say it always devolves into a mess, and you'll never find real satisfaction, no matter how many times or where you jump to.

Rather than try to find the perfect forum or discussion, enjoy it for what it is, and take an anthropological view of things at times, especially when it gets heated or crazy. If you can detach yourself from the discussion in an objective manner, things can become more enlightening and entertaining at times.

Even so - sometimes all you can do is shake your head, close the thread, and go get yourself a stiff drink.

I disagree with the PhD statement made by the original poster. I am a college-dropout and dont think that PhD means jack shit. I interpreted it as "highly specialized knowledge" rather than a piece of paper. if the original author meant the actual academic pursuit then he is just whacked in the head!

If you don't think a PhD means anything, then you're wrong.

Could mean something, might mean everything, might mean nothing, might be completely wrong... everything depends on context and perspective.

> Asking him to change his personality and what he "enjoys" just so that he can fit in is so absurd to me because it hints at the idea that you should surrender your individuality in order to fit in with the group.

I think you are completely misinterpreting the comment your responding to. That's really not what he said at all. You are essentially take what is a thoughtful suggestion to try and see beyond your prejudices/preconceived notions and turning it into a dumbed down "Just be like normal like everybody else" kind of statement.

But perhaps you do not like the post because maybe you are also one of these "I am smart and interesting and clever and everybody else is a dull, dumb, zombie" types? I might be wrong but I would guess that thats the case.

> Edit: and adding no offense at the beginning of your post does not make it less offensive. It just makes seem passive-aggressive :P

Your post sounds passive aggressive, mate. Parent's post just sounds direct, bordering on blunt.

>Some people are not interested in those pursuits and they are, in comparison, very "pedestrian" in terms of complexity. Now I enjoy all things related to food for example, but I would stab myself in the ears if I had to talk to people about their eating habits for more than 30 seconds once every 13 years.

You are confusing enjoyment and complexity. You enjoy food, which is only natural because you are a living being person. I could walk up to anyone on the street and they would tell me they "like food". However that is so much different from deeply exploring the topic. EVERYONE enjoys those topics you mentioned in some way, that doesn't mean they have mastered it however. Low barrier to entry, high barrier to expertise.

All of the things you mentioned are deeply complex and take skill and expertise to get right. There is complexity there, you just don't want to engage in it. Thus they are sour grapes to you.

>> If you talk to a person, and the conversation is dull, they might be a boring person. If most of the people you talk to seem boring, then you are the boring person.

> And I don´t really understand how you can come to that conclusion. That´s like 2+2 = duck

No, it's more like if everyone you talk to is an asshole, it's most likely that you are the asshole.

This is one of those things I can't believe it took me so long to learn. If a conversation is boring you, all else being equal, the other person is likely to also be bored. If you're enjoying talking to someone, again without any other knowledge, they are probably also enjoying the conversation.

Plenty of exceptions and I have no explanation for it because I am a paper-shell of a human being, but it's a useful heuristic.

absolutely not true. There are many many contexts in which I won't talk about what I do for a living because while I absolutely enjoy it and could talk for hours, I know others will find it uninteresting.

I seriously get tired of seeing these inane observations in this thread.

> absolutely not true. There are many many contexts in which I won't talk about what I do for a living because while I absolutely enjoy it and could talk for hours

Alternatively, many people will enjoy hearing you passionately discuss whatever matters to you, and will be happy to pick up whatever scraps of peripheral knowledge they can, insofar as they can understand you.

Before I respond to you, I will say that I have been on both sides of this argument. Especially early in college, there was so much to learn, and so many unknown unknowns. I craved the conversations with PhDs, postdocs, and researchers because everything they talked about was brand new to me. Being constantly immersed in new lines of human inquiry was beautiful. But after a while, the spaces of unknown unknowns became harder to find. But I have found that the things that I used to find pedestrian are much more interesting than I used to think they were. I just hadn't dug far enough.

> Some people are not interested in those pursuits and they are, in comparison, very "pedestrian" in terms of complexity.

No, they are not pedestrian.

* Sports - I have become much more interested in endurance sports. If you have never wondered what it takes to be a top endurance athlete, I'd say, it's something you should wonder about. Lots of people have asked the question "How far is the human body capable of being pushed?", and the answer to that question is fascinating and complex. The difference between top athletes is hugely psychological. Much of endurance sports is just "how much pain can you put up with?". Here's a different, but related question. If people are really pushing themselves as hard as they can, why don't they die more often? If you are talking more about team sports, personally, I like soccer. Ask yourself, how is each player observing the field to maximize outcomes? Every player on the team is playing a live-action RTS to be in the right place at the right time. And every opposing player is doing the opposite. There is a ton of depth in sports. Humans who play sports are not dumb or pedestrian.

* family - What philosophies of family have been most useful over human history? How did native americans' views of family differ from stereotypical modern families? Which do you think is better? If you really don't care about peoples' individual families, take them as data points to learn about how humans build structures of multiple humans. Why does/doesn't polyamory work for some people/cultures? What things does the human brain learn at different times (i.e. how are your kids doing from a learning perspective?) People love talking about how their kids are growing, and the ways that humans grow is fascinating.

> food - Nutrition. What makes good food? What parameters are good chefs optimizing for (hint: it's more than taste, texture, and presentation)? Can you do it? If you think you can cook as well as a professional chef, I challenge you to try. The thing that's difficult about this is that I needed to try some really good food to understand how far short I fall. Cooking is chemistry, and it is equally interesting.

* religion - How can you possibly say that religion is pedestrian? That's mind boggling to me. Religion has been one of the longest running, most universal organizing structures of human experience. This, to me, makes it totally fascinating. How have religions changed over time? What did independently invented religions look like? Why are many so similar? How did humans explain inexplicable phenomenon. I believe that humans have been as smart as we are today for basically as long as there has been written or oral history. The difference was that the didn't have the mental abstractions and information to come up with the solutions that we have today. Religion fills a lot of voids in human understanding over history, and provides a fascinating window into human history. Talking to people about their religion will make your life richer.

> The parent comment clearly enjoys pursuits that are of higher complexity and feels as if people in general do not share that interest and hence to him they seem boring

This exactly reinforces the initial comment of the parent:

> If you talk to a person, and the conversation is dull, they might be a boring person. If most of the people you talk to seem boring, then you are the boring person.

Basically, if you cannot find the complexity in "pedestrian" concepts, it's not because they are not there. It's because you're not able to find them. Maybe you're not being curious enough, maybe you're being arrogant, maybe you're just tired, and can't be bothered on that day.

I have a favorite saying relevant to this:

If you want to be interesting, be interested.

Give others the benefit of the doubt, and see how deep the rabbit hole goes. Lots of very talented humans have dedicated their entire lives to studying your so-called "pedestrain" topics, and they learned interesting things. I think it would be worth it for everyone to try to figure out the things that they discovered - at least some of them.

I have nothing to add, but thank you for taking the time to write this out.

> If you "peel back" the layers of people and frequently find nothing, that doesn't mean their is nothing there, it means you don't have the perception or ability to find it.

Everyone, literally every person, has at least one valuable thing they can teach you.

That's pretty much what I wanted to say, but am not eloquent enough to put it in to words.

Same here; While I probably could have wrote as much, because brevity is not my thing usually (anyone here regularly has probably seen some of the chapters of my future book /s)...

What I really wanted to say was "this post needs to be put on /r/iamverysmart" - but even that doesn't convey what really needed to be said.

I think everyone is being a little rude and reactionary here.

People enjoy what they enjoy, it's not ok to demand that they change.

Suppose you lived in a world where everyone was obsessed with Pokemon. No one talked about anything else. Everyone around you had the mind of a 10 year old, in terms of intellectual and emotional development. How would you feel, could you really feel like you belonged?

There are people out there who are so smart that this how they feel about the people around them. They are just genuinely beyond them across the board, emotional, intellectual and spiritual development. They are lonely and they are bored and they are often a little bitter.

It's not their fault. It's not your fault. It just is. Leave them be and listen sympathetically to their point of view.

The reaction here is more over the idea of "unknown unknowns". This poster doesn't demonstrate the self awareness to even suspect the average person might have something to teach them which, rather than super intelligence, belies a lack of emotional maturity.

Pointing to arbitrary metrics like phd reinforces this initial read. But at the end it's a numbers game; is a 6th sigma super intelligence on this board venting to the void with a throwaway, or is it an average/below average intelligence person who for one reason or another is emotionally stunted to the point of lacking both introspection or empathy.

I've, for one, seen far more people in the second camp (hell, there was a time when I struggled with identity where I was one, saved from eternal shame on the internet by the philosophy "lurk more"), than the first.

> There are people out there who are so smart that this how they feel about the people around them.

Nah. There are insufficiently socialized people who use this as a self-defense mechanism. Getting good at people is hard work, too, and there's not a lot of room to be sympathetic towards somebody who implicitly shit on that effort because of how so very very smart they think they are.

I know plenty of folks who are Actually That Smart who somehow have little trouble having a conversation with we mere mortals. They're happier, too. And sometimes--wait for it--they too learn something in a conversation. If GGP is actually as much of a bright light as his post wants us to think, surely interacting with we mere mortals in a way that doesn't clank is a solvable problem.

Is it generally true that people of extreme intelligence have richer lives in terms of emotional and spiritual development?

This is definitely not the case in my circle, where the MENSA candidates tend to sound a little bit like the Throw away comment, and if they don't have outright disdain for typical human connections and spiritual pursuits, they definitely don't spend the average amount of time on emotional or spiritual development.

That's the kind of people mensa attracts. Gifted people are often highly emotional. If you're gifted in one respect you are more likely to be gifted in another. Some are intellectually gifted. Some are emotionally gifted. Many are both. And I believe the chances that you are both increases as you move from gifted to highly gifted to profoundly gifted. The smartest person in the room will more often be a MENSA type, the smartest person in the company will more often be gifted across the board.

I'd say if you're not intelligent enough to also develop your emotional or spiritual development (it doesn't have to be forced you just need to not be closed to it), then you aren't really extremely intelligent, you're just trying to come off as one or more accurately your idea of how one would be like.

Last I heard MENSA has an annual fee, isn't that already a nice indicator of the intelligence of its members, to pay for an "I am smart" badge?

Sometimes they are paying to try to find other people like themselves. Sometimes they are paying to feel like they belong. And, yeah, a lot are paying to feel special or social signal.

But then, I'm not calling others idiots for not liking the same topics as me, which is what OP is doing, so the pushback nis warranted in this instance.

I had a colleague like that, he was diagnosed with Asperger. He genuinely wanted to be interested in others but wasn't... At least until we discussed bitcoin, or Isaac Arthur, or Scifi audio books with interesting concepts, or his body building diet... I think he just had little in common with the family people at work. I told him, most people have something you can learn from them and if not, just be polite and it's ok. I can tell you (and I have a PhD if this helps you accept my answer) that intelligence has very little to do with having a PhD so you are ignoring a lot of interesting, smart people right there.

You know, some people that you would consider simpletons are intensely happy due to their attitude in life and I for one am always interested in those people. People with a drive to explore the world or to make their loved ones happy. To me you sound pretty ignorant if you claim that you can peel back a layer on something as complex as a human mind and then claim to find it empty.

If you walk the footsteps of a stranger, you will learn the things you never knew you never knew. Though you seem to feel like you know what you don't know. And I'd consider that a somewhat boring attitude, although I'd be interested in how you came to feel that way.

I think this is pretty spot and this is a telling quote from GP:

>It's like you try to peel back a single layer of why people believe what they believe and there's nothing there.

Oh, but there is something there. People are not paper shells, but if you perceive them that way then you reveal your own blindness. Most non-ASD people find the emotional and experiential lives of others to be endlessly fascinating. Talking through a well-worn topic is a chance to see it new again through the other person's eyes and get a new flavor for it as you understand their own experience.

So I think my advice to GP would be lose the attitude. Others can smell it from a mile away and will treat you accordingly. Holding such a negative belief about others will make your professional life much more difficult and you will lose opportunities. It might be difficult to perceive these inner emotional lives of the people around you, but what you can't see exists all the same. People, even the ones who seem lazy or stupid at first glance are awe-inspiringly capable. We all run on similar hardware, and so each of us has a few PhDs worth of hidden depths.

There are different levels though. There is complexity and tremendous ingenuity at any levels. It's just that the greater the level difference between two people, the less the interaction is fruitful for the both of them.

Poverty might mean that a smart one may spend most of its brain power to make rent, instead of getting a PHD. Omnipresent marketing might have ingrained some ideas and dreams.

People tend to stay in their level as long as they find it entertaining. Which can be very long because when you do thing inefficiently you get to face new problems that you can once more treat inefficiently until you are crushed by an inextricable mess of superficial things.

Like you said people are pretty good at pettiness when noticing the attitude, and then close the door even further on sharing anything potentially interesting.

When you are more than a few levels above, it's your role to find the way to make the interaction between the two of you, meaningful, positive and interesting for the both of you. Very often it will require some attention to details.

The fact that you are talking about a "level difference" reveals a very 1 (or low) dimensional look on things. Some people may be blend and boring in one dimension i.e. they are not "deeply self-aware people struggling with the boundaries of human knowledge". But they may have learned to cope with great trauma that would wipe others away. Or they have musical skills or their profession may teach you something (or are you already a good electrician?).

How would you feel being judged as several levels below me?

In 2013 or so, after going to a congress I booked another 5 days in the cheapest Hostel I could find (in New Orleans) and slept in the large sleeping hall in a bunk bed. One night cost me as much as the wifi in my previous hotel. And I met a teacher doing charity work on the Katrina disaster houses that were still dealing with fungi. He took me around the sites, to camp hope, I ate with all the volunteers. Many Christians and Mormons were there, this was new to me and I don't agree with religious people on many things but it was a wonderful experience. One I would have certainly missed with your attitude. On another night I met an artist living in a van that ran on waste cooking oil she filtered through old jeans. She was very conscientious about our planet and reflected that in her art. She thought me that art, like words and code are a means of communication but more on the emotional level. I never looked at it like that. I didn't see a single PhD that week and I liked it at least as much as the week before, talking about single molecule biophysics.

One of the most important lessons (imho) I teach my kids is to withhold judgement. Do not put absolute values on anything or anyone in a short amount of time. You will do yourself and other a disservice. Someone cutting you of in traffic may have a sick kid at home and in a hurry/distracted, someone being rude may have just been fired and about to burst in tears, etc.

@teekert I was mainly putting myself on lookathrwaway level, to hopefully provide advice to a fellow Aspie.

The beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as one say. I perceive that there are plenty of different axes to look at things. But I refuse not to see the broken vase as a whole, no matter how beautifully you frame the shiny pieces.

Most people have been broken one way or an other. Some even celebrate it ; I find it quite sad and would rather avoid it, but who am I to know ?

I used to have things I didn't get at all like music, until the day it clicked. Even though I won't ever reach the level of masters in the art, I have enough to find it interesting. But more importantly that was an enlightening and humbling experiment that there are things you don't get until you do.

I enjoy the state of mind model, where to learn a new thing you try to search the state of mind where this thing comes naturally.

Once you get the right state of mind some things become easy , and some other things harder, but communication with a person in the same state of mind flows easily.

Often meeting different people and understanding how they deal with things can help acquire a new state of mind.

>How would you feel being judged as several levels below me?

As an aspie that as been judged stupider than I am most of my life, I have grown past it.

There are usually interesting experiences I can pick with anyone, although the ratio effort/reward depends a lot on our relative paths. I get that life sometimes put you in shitty situations and I don't judge people. As much as I enjoy the occasional serendipity that the chaos of life can bring, I enjoy creating my own path more.

You do sound like nice guy and like my "Aspie" friend, very intelligent and fun to talk to.

But my Aspie friend felt genuine discomfort around new things and people and he tried to rationalize it by saying he didn't care. But I think he did care. He even cried for a full room when he left us (almost making many others almost cry as well)!

I think he would be better off admitting his feelings and accepting them trying to work from there. He even told me once he read some research where over-expressing some gene would make people feel less need for control and how this could free him in a way.

But who am I, I may be completely mistaken and project a "Vulcan-like deep emotional life that needs to be controlled" -picture onto him, while this is not how it is. But I felt a bond with this guy, I think we did share very similar thought routines. We both felt a need for control but I felt less fear for unexpected things and human connections, though we certainly both felt the need.

Thank you. I should do something like that more often. In general, when I get outside of my bubble, I find a lot of very interesting people. I just get so intensely involved with the latest project.

I have some cool stories but only very few :) I'm also not so much the thrill seeker I appear to be in my post. It's just that when I travel for work I absolutely refuse to not see as much as possible of where I am, and that often brings you into contact with people (because I usually travel alone).

It always pays off do something that feels a bit radical. It also comes with some feelings of discomfort and insecurity. There was also a pretty f-ed up guy (abused or something) in the hostel, he was nice but mysterious in a way, but you sleep less well when he falls asleep on the cold floor next to his bed. Also driving 600 km alone sounds adventurous but I felt pretty lonely and had a sense of "why?" as well. As they say, life begins at the edge of your comfort zone ;)

Uh, I’m getting a PhD and I live in New Orleans. I resent this binary :D

Start respecting the fact that intellectual development & progress is only one axis on the map that is the human experience.

One can find interest, happiness and satisfaction by pursuing passions where scientific knowledge may only be of slight advantage instead of the absolute focus.

Being a Musicians, touching the emotions of a whole crowd in a live performance is such a passion. Deeply complex, hugely important, some would say powerful, but science will only be a minor help if at all.

If you find other people boring ask yourself why you are too boring to see the ways they aren't.

Sure there are people that are ignorant, one-dimensional etc. but speaking from anecdote, i've yet to meet someone that didn't atleast had one experience that was interesting to listen too.

Life is too complex to disregard people that easily.

>Start respecting the fact that intellectual development & progress is only one axis on the map that is the human experience.

Excellent all too overlooked view IMO.

>> Start respecting the fact that intellectual development & progress is only one axis on the map that is the human experience.

> Excellent all too overlooked view IMO.

Intellectual development and logical reasoning serve as the basis for proper personal health, family nucleation, social improvement, and other axes on the human experience map.

Without being able to think, how can you improve your health, friend, family, or financial standing? This is why most of America is overweight, poor, and doesn't care for anyone other than themselves (as shown by both democratic and Republican political platforms) -- they simply don't have the intellectual capacity to care.

> This is why most of America is overweight, poor, and doesn't care for anyone other than themselves (as shown by both democratic and Republican political platforms)

And yet all those people are still just as valid and worthwhile humans as anyone else. They all make up the rich tapestry of life. One of the most important skills to be able to relate to people is to realise that, to be able to see the world from someone else's perspective, and to understand what's important to them.

> they simply don't have the intellectual capacity to care

Caring is an emotional response, not an intellectual ability.

This is only true up to a certain degree. A Phd will almost certainly not help you with your health or your social development. It is true that there is a minimum of basic education needed to find these things worthy of your time, but it's definitly not needed and you are talking about people who never experienced that basic education.

I also think the second part of your comment incredibly dismissive, because it asserts that those people will never "be smart enough" to care about this things. You mix up education and intelligence which are not the same thing.

> This is why most of America is overweight, [...] -- they simply don't have the intellectual capacity to care.

counterpoint: overweight doctors

Personal health, social and financial success is mostly about psychology, not intellectual capacity.

Logic only gets you so far, otherwise natural selection would've made sure it's the absence of Asperger's that's a disorder, not the other way around.

My theory is that the reason for these widespread ailings in American and other modern societies is that we're down in terms of average raw numbers of human interactions, compared to some centuries ago.

Emulation of successful people can guide a whole tribe towards the best path of action, no logic needed. But that mechanism is currently weakened because:

1/ There's only so much emotional understanding possible without face-to-face engagement. It's way harder to guess that someone is unhappy and "defective" despite an appearance of success without real-life meeting. It's way harder to know a certain way of life is detrimental if you've only seen that one. We have less "emotional" data points to pick from.

2/ Centralized dissemination of information (mass-media), isn't diverse enough for any kind of natural selection to occur. People instinctively know who to admire and emulate when they meet them, but unidirectional mass-media only pushes arbitrary success stories. Naturally selected role models are scarce.

I can relate to what your saying but I think this is quite a depressive and cynical way of looking at people. Maybe try understanding people using your heart before using your head.

Personally, I like to find what people are interested in, and let them talk about that. I tend to learn things that I didn't know before, which is always interesting. For example, yesterday I was sitting by a guy who started talking about watching the British Open. I don't care about golf. At all. Never played, never even watched it on TV. But through chatting with him, I learned that it's technically just 'The Open' (and then we Americans started calling it 'British' to differentiate it from our newer version), that bunkers there tend to be much deeper than in the US (since they're by the ocean, and the strong winds would blow sand out of shallow ones), and a few other things. I found it interesting, even if it's not knowledge I'm likely to use, because he was interested in it.

If you try and peel back a layer of what you think is most important, but they don't care about it at all, you won't find anything worth hearing. There's nothing there, because they've probably never bothered to think about it. So find something that they have bothered to think about, and learn what you can about that.

You do have to avoid judging others, though. If you decide someone's interest has no worth, then it's going to be a boring conversation. It takes either empathy, so you can see the world through other's eyes and understand why they're interested in it, or just having a view that any learning is worthwhile.

> If you try and peel back a layer of what you think is most important, but they don't care about it at all, you won't find anything worth hearing.

I came looking for someone who'd already said this. I think you hit the nail on the head.

Even the stoners I worked with in food service could have some interesting perspectives on, say, why different video games have such different communities.

I mean, yeah, I get it. Kids make me downright uncomfortable, and that alone is often a huge chunk of what people talk about. There are quite simply differences in interests. But then the question is, what are you trying to get out of an interaction?

In this context, I'd say, find out what that person's goals / difficulties are. Are they trying to switch to a different department? Are they trying to get their kid into a particular private school? Remodeling their house? I think keeping track of this sort of information, checking back in on how their efforts are going or giving any small useful anecdotes/advice ("Yeah, I really got screwed by that moving company -- I wish I'd packed my TV more carefully,") does way more, I think, thank talking about sports.

And the great thing is, even if we were all machines, those would be great things to talk about. I've gained incredibly useful information about home ownership just from listening to my coworkers.

You need to recognize, that just like some people find wine, sports, their kids, or gardening to be an interesting topic of conversation, you find introspection, philosophy, history, and/or literature to be the things that interest you most in discussion.

Is there an objective ranking of those topics? Are some of them universally better or worse?

Some people think so. This causes them to feel disdain for the others who don't share their topics of interest.

Some people are truly awful conversationalists and it is difficult having a flowing conversation with them. I've found that the topic is not the issue. The person's conversation skills are. At times I feel that I am the bad conversationalist, not knowing anything about the finer details of this year's soccer lineup. If I did not try to be interested and engaged in such a conversation, the other person could plausibly find me dull. I get to decide how to proceed and what experience they get to base their judgement on. When I do so, I do sometimes find myself learning a lot about things I knew nothing about, and sometimes pleasantly engaged in a conversation about a topic I would generally consider to be not interesting to me.

1. Realise, that you are judging people on what is important to you, and not them.

"No reflection, no relevant context, no mirror provided by an intimate knowledge of history or literature ... just nothing." These are things important to you, and it is perfectly fine to make this choice on who to associate with. Realise it is a choice, and this does not mean other values are less "important"

2. Realise, that it is impossible for each person to have complete knowledge. We are limited in what we can know and do. Therefore knowledge is distributed. If knowledge is distributed, every single person could have some gift to provide the world (and you) based on their own unique circumstance and history.

The question then becomes: are you paying attention? and is it relevant?

"The use of knowledge in society" written in 1945, makes a compelling case for the distribution of knowledge in society:


I'll take a wild guess and say it's because your intellect is way more developed than your affect. Nothing wrong with that, but life is easier if you learn to use emotions instead of just living them.

It helps with making friends, negotiating, having sex, taking care of your health and overall improves the feeling of well-being. After all, if you perceive the world through mostly logic, it's easy to become cynical or be overwhelmed.

Meditation and psychedelics can help learning that if it's something you wish to invest in. Psychoanalysis as well. They all have different time frames, costs and shapes, so it's worth testing all of them. From several sources, given the huge difference in nature and quality of the providers.

It's a long process anyway, but 10 years in, I found it worth it for myself.

> I'll take a wild guess and say it's because your intellect is way more developed than your affect.

Interesting. I like that phrase.

> Meditation and psychedelics can help learning that if it's something you wish to invest in.

Meditation maybe, but I wouldn't recommend psychedelics to someone unless they knew what they were getting into. I knew some folks who had rough trips and were likely NOT BETTER people for the experience -- just DIFFERENT people.

> From several sources, given the huge difference in nature and quality of the providers.

Set and setting is very important.

Consider that you might not be as intelligent as you think you are. I'm sure you are aware that there is more than one kind of intelligence right? Although you might have a PhD and be very knowledgeable in many subjects, you sound like you are severely lacking in many other kinds of intelligence. So maybe you are not so different from the "dull" people you speak so poorly of?

But if there is defect anywhere it is not in them, but in your expectations of what they should be able to do or talk about.

Real life is intensely boring. It is constant grind for everyone, getting food, cleaning, takes most of their time.

I just had to accept it, as it is. Because most people are struggling with getting their life running, not with "boundaries of human knowledge". Then I started accepting my own shortcomings, there is much more daily easy problems to be solved here and now.

Then when you reflect on it, calling it all distasteful is just wrong on so many levels, because when you try to chase "boundaries of human knowledge" you fail at basic understanding of fellow humans.

Hey I’ll respond not using a throwaway.

I feel that way too a lot of the time. When I was younger I was incredibly misanthropic in many aspects of my thinking, and hell ... even though I am less so as I age, there’s a certain realistic cynicism about human motivation that I’ve gained access to that means I actually have a worse picture of people than I did 20 years ago.

All I can say is, first have some empathy for yourself. Stuff is boring. People kinda suck. That realization is not profound and can’t be just willed away.

Second, there may be some aspects of yourself you haven’t developed yet, and if you really engage in developing your own wider potential, you will find commonality with far more people.

No one, no matter how smart, is pure intellect. Wishing all your interactions with people would happen on that level is a bad framework for enjoying people and for a rich human life.

I can think of any number of people who when I first met them I felt I had nothing in common with them, and really just didn’t like them, who became important figures in my life. Seriously.

I think high IQ low IQ or whatever ... any kind of nuerodivergence makes it more of a challenge to relate and empathize with people.

It’s possible to find richness in interaction. People are much less boring than you might think, when you learn how to conduct yourself in such a way that they feel safe talking to you frankly about their experience, their dreams, their passions. People can be ridiculously insightful when you least expect it.

Your challenge is to make people want to talk to you in a real way.

Start by removing the assumption that you are anywhere near as correct or as profound as you quite reasonably think you are. This self picture is an illusion. I don’t care who you are, it is an illusion.

I used to think humility and gratitude were just dumb concepts. You need humility. Not to “bring you down to other people’s level” but to enable psychological health and functioning, and ultimately happiness and connection and to become a more complete person.

You can get along with people without liking them. In particular at work, being able to work well and effectively with people you don't like is practically required. And that doesn't mean you have to engage in small talk. Just avoid being actively hostile, and cooperate with them.

I'd also recommend trying to respect that people may disagree with you on what is important. It is quite possible for someone to have examined their life as much as you expect, and have decided that they like religion and consumerism and other things that you dislike. People are different. That doesn't make them less valid as human beings.

You also may want to think about whether people are hiding their true selves from you. It is clear that you judge people for what they tell you. Did it ever occur to you that you may have a reputation for doing that? People may actively avoid opening up to you because of your own attitudes and behaviors. It may be known that conversations with you become mini-trials of their personal values. There is far more depth to most people than they are willing to show to their co-workers, and if you are known for disrespecting that, people will hide their true selves from you.

In US business culture, if you don’t engage in small talk you are probably coming across as hostile, or at least aloof. It doesn’t need to be a lot, but you definitely need to at least go through the motions of “Good morning! How are you?”, etc.

> Small talk, feigning interest in kids, in sports, in wine, in whatever useless dull, pedestrian thing a coworker is into.

There is overlap between PhD-level conversations and all of these topics. Off the cuff, if someone talks about kids, you can ask about genetics vs. nurture, what sorts of behaviours the parents have seen at what ages/genders, etc. There's a lot of detailed chemistry in wine making and wine pairing. Sports involve complex game theory. Religion has complex social dynamics and interplay with morality and neurology, etc.

The point being, if you can't find overlap with your interests in any conversation topic, you either need to work on your imagination, or you need to let go of the preconception that there are boring topics with no common ground, which inherently limits your engagement in a conversation.

“Everybody has a secret world inside of them. I mean everybody. All of the people in the whole world, I mean everybody — no matter how dull and boring they are on the outside. Inside them they've all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds... Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands, maybe.” - Neil Gaiman

The same way they put up with it when you ramble about the things you find interesting. People have different tastes - you might find exploring the limits of human knowledge interesting, while some might find analyzing their favourite sports teams performance interesting.

>I find that anyone who isn't a PhD (or could easily have been if they hadn't gone into industry) might as well be a paper shell. I can put on a mask of civility and charm when needed, but all I really want is to talk to deeply self-aware people struggling with the boundaries of human knowledge.

>Nearly every time I work up the motivation to try to really get to know someone who I think I may have judged too quickly I find religiosity, passive consumerism, an unexamined life, something so distasteful that it takes ages before I can do it again.

Unfortunately in my experience that's mostly true. I'm no bastion of social virtue but I try to give most people a chance.

Usually I'm disappointed but every now and then I get a nice surprise. I've met some people with unique outlooks on life and sometimes that's really refreshing.

I work with a lot of very intelligent people. Most of those are in a different field of expertise than myself, but I find intelligence and a sense of humour really go together.

> I find intelligence and a sense of humour really go together.

I once heard it said that humour is about taking two disparate ideas and relating them together, or taking something common and interpreting it in an unexpected way. Tool-making or invention is similar.

Don't you envy people that never overthink things? People that enjoy the sensory experience of slobbering on a glass of wine? Playing sports for the sake of it?

Try empathy. These are humans too. They have their reasons for living their 'distasteful' lives.

I think it's you who's only got one note on their tune, not everyone around you.

If, in traffic, everybody is honking at you, do you think all of them are bad drivers, or could it be you?

> Try empathy.

Empathy sucks, I am pretty sure I would be a lot nicer and outgoing if I were less empathetic. You see people struggle with things all the time but you can't do anything about it. All empathy leads to in those situations is suffering because you feel their emotions.

In my opinion people who are outgoing and friendly often have low empathy, they ignore basically everything and just put on their default happy face. It can feel nice, but then you realize that they are super shallow so nothing they say really matters.

Being very empathetic doesn’t mean that you have to be overly sympathetic. You can understand without feeling someone else’s emotions.

I'm not religious, but I find the following an incredibly useful quote that becomes easier to accept with age:

"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference."

People bond/interact over shared experiences. You mention kids, I used to become extremely bored over listening to other peoples stories about their kids. Now that I'm a father myself I don't listen to the story about their kid with any more interest but I understand that they just want to talk about the trial's they may be going through at any particular point.

On passive consumerism, unexamined life... I'd suggest trying to understand who it is you're talking to. Sometimes that will be a fair judgement, othertimes you'll find that people are trying their best to earn for their families, look after others and simply want some luxury to unwind before getting back to whatever takes most of their waking hours. However without knowing who you're talking to thats all speculation.

On a practical level, I would suggest you should surround yourself with like minded people. Either work in academia or aim for companies with a higher bar to enter, that should help.

> How do people put up with it?

I was a bit like that. Things have happened in my life that made me unable to continue being happy only looking life in one way.

Luckily, I developed hobbies and extra activities that allowed me see how many skills are out there that I can develop and learn from people by just watching and having those simple interactions.

I still like philosophical debates but I find also amazing that some people can influence other people just with smiles and genuine happiness.

Life can be broad too.

Have you considered that people reveal different sides of themselves to varying degrees based on context?

Most people have something interesting to say, if they don't share it with you it's either because they're not comfortable with you or not comfortable sharing it in that place. Bob from Accounting isn't going to talk to you about his intricate love of Georgian architecture at the work BBQ.

> feigning interest

I used to have a similar attitude to yourself. I have a lot of niche interests that most people I come into contact with have little interest in. I learned that having an interest in building relationships with people not built on interests has a vast amount of value that is not immediately obvious if you are emotionally distant, on the autistic spectrum, ADD or something similar. It wasn't until I purposely and thoughtfully corrected for it in day to day life did I appreciate these other kinds of values that I did not find intuitive to value before.

If you only feign interest, then you are not getting to know someone as they can tell you are not genuinely interested and they will not peel back any layers for you. The fact that the average person doesn't ponder subjects you consider deep does not make them shallow.

>all I really want is to talk to deeply self-aware people struggling with the boundaries of human knowledge.

Your self-examination hasn't yet led you to realize this ain't 'all you really want'?

To find interestingness in others is a skill you can develop. There are things of interest in every topic.

Have you ever really tasted wine, with others? tried to figure out the different components? I had a friend tell me a few days ago that grape tannins and oak tannins are felt in different parts of the mouth (tongue vs cheeks); I'll have to check into this. I know for a fact that I taste wine differently than my husband -- we taste sweetness differently and bitterness differently. Why is that? Can it be quantified? What are the dimensions along which you'd want to get subjective ratings if you wanted to map peoples' tastes? We could have a party and taste a bunch of wines and rate them and then do a singular value decomposition to find similarity between different tasters and between different wines; maybe then we could form a hypothesis, especially if we had some chemical data...

Listen, if you want to get nerdy, you can make anything nerdy. Kids = child development, Chomsky's hypotheses about syntax, the fact that babies' noses are designed to get squashed in when they fall on their faces and then designed to pop out (if your kid's nose doesn't pop out you can gently pull it into shape). Evolution, the microbiome, whatever. Gardening -> mycorrhizae, the game theory or economics of mycorrhizae, pollinators, seed banking, GMOs, edible plants, what is a weed. And there is so much in recent science that is bearing out what "uneducated" but knowledgeable practitioners have been saying for years. Maybe it would help to consider your "boring people" as practitioners of arts that you have not been educated in. Or you can work backward from their actions and thoughts to uncover the assumptions by which they construct their worldview, and then put it into a larger geopolitical context.

Or maybe you're just burned out and tired, and need to recover. Your curiosity antennae are turned off.

Good luck.

No matter how we live our lives, we're ultimately limited in how much we will experience by our natural life spans.

I see every interaction with someone else as an opportunity to peer into another life. A life I didn't live. A path I didn't take. Even if that path feels to you completely pedestrian, there is still a whole life there that you didn't live.

Even if they haven't examined or reflected on their life, you can (with respect, and perhaps best silently to yourself :-) ).

You can dive pretty deep into sports: strategy, execution, training, statistics etc...

You can dive pretty deep into kids: educational, behavioral, development etc...

You can dive pretty deep into wine: flavors, style, type, region, economics, science.

You can dive pretty deep into religion, especially if you are interested in the "examined" life. A bunch of philosophers did this, one famous example is Nietzsche.

Make it a challenge to find out one interesting thing about every new person you meet.

> I find religiosity

I find it interesting that you seem to contrast religiosity with your definition of intelligence. In my experience, the two are not inversely correlated.

Disclaimer: I have a PhD in computer science and I am a practicing Christian, so I'm clearly biased here :)

In my experience intelligent people don't believe in gods.

They take responsibility for their own actions, thoughts and speech.

The two things are not mutually exclusive. By believing in God, I don't abdicate responsibility for my actions, thoughts and speech. On the contrary, I feel my beliefs give me a stronger responsibility over those things. However, I also believe that I am incapable of anything good of my own accord and only by the work of Jesus Christ within me.

Side note: Donald Knuth is also a Christian. You can read some of his musings in "Things a Computer Scientist Rarely Talks About", a sample of which is publicly available. (Unfortunately, I haven't yet devoted the time to read this myself, so I wouldn't consider this an endorsement.)

https://www.amazon.com/Things-Computer-Scientist-Rarely-Lect... http://web.stanford.edu/group/cslipublications/cslipublicati...

If you find everyone else around you, I would suggest that perhaps you are the problem.

You really can't find anything in common with someone that you find interesting to talk about?

> How do people put up with it?

When I talk to people like this, I hold back. They get the first layer; everyone does. I can sense the attitude and I give them nothing after that.

It is quite possible that is why you see nothing. Nobody wants to show you more.

Are you able to recognize that you are intensely boring? That you’re interested in dull pedestrian things? That when you peel back your own layers, there’s nothing there?

If not, do that first.

You’re no different from everybody else.

>>How do people put up with it?

Humor, Modesty and Compassion!

I am a member of Mensa and read ca. 2000 books in the last 30 years. Sometimes I think just like you, although I know it is wrong (and I would never talk about it).

I often meet people who say things like "I find that anyone who isn't a PhD ... might as well be a paper shell." are too shallow and stupid for my taste, and I am one of them. Overconfident, not nearly as clever as they think they are, boring idiots, arrogant. They just think they know, but actually don't know shit about quantum mechanics, general relativity, cohomology, lisp or russian novels and Debussy.

Conclusion: Thinking that other people are stupid, shallow and boring is only allowed if you are a genius - and you aren't. Nobody is. A good life has kids, sports, wine, sex and vodka in it :-)

I prescribe 25 short stories by Chekov and falling in love immediately.

"I find that anyone who isn't a PhD (or could easily have been if they hadn't gone into industry) might as well be a paper shell. I can put on a mask of civility and charm when needed, but all I really want is to talk to deeply self-aware people struggling with the boundaries of human knowledge."


First and most importantly: forget the internet and books. And words in general. Find people similar to yourself and observe what works and doesn't work for them.

But since we're already here, what I think worked for me (40y old and it's gotten better with age): be yourself. Yep, that old shit. But the why and how is more important. Being 100% sincere with yourself and others will free you of tedious interactions with people who enjoy things you don't. And when you exaggerate in the PhD direction (because trust me, you do) the sincerity will cause feedback loops that will get the interaction to an equilibrium much faster than if any or both parties are pretending.

You should read Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. Sounds like you could use some.

I do agree that most people are boring if you don't try and figure out what's interesting about them.

Discovering what's interesting about someone is an art. The totality of people you will meet have a much wider variety of experience than you could ever accumulate on your own. When I meet someone new, the first thing I try to find out is what it is they have done that I have not, and then I ask them about that. Often, I learn something new and interesting.

In general, people will never realize on their own what you'll find interesting about them, so you have to seek it out actively.

Dude really.. small talk and day-to-day communication is more about connecting than the subject itself.

It sounds like every conversation has to be a learning event for you and the average person isn't interesting enough.

You need to learn how to entertain yourself and start seeing more complexity.

I understand perfectly what you mean. Contrary to other comments, I think that this can be ok, you should spend the majority of your time with folks that you find interesting. Not easy, and indeed I'm working on something to make this simpler. Feel free to reach me for a chat. My Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lorenzo-pieri-a638b9a6/

That is however not what the parent asked about, the question was ”how do I cope?” not ”is this ok?”. Of course it’s ok to feel that way, most of the other comments are about how to cope instead of ”you don’t, give up and go someplace else”.

I often feel like talking about esoteric topics like math even though I’m surrounded by people who would gladly kill to never do math ever again. I however want to get along with these people, just like the original poster who wants to progress through people skills. If I was only surrounded by people who value the same things as me this would not be an issue, which is why answers like ”just go where other people are exactly like you” is not productive.

I began working from home and essentially opted out of it.

I feel more and more like Larry David in Curb every day.

I tend to want to teach these people, point them to books and knowledge so they can learn and be less shallow. That is a sure way to piss almost all of them off (unless they become your students), which rarely happens.

Alan Kay describes and analyses why the majority of humanity act like you describe in many of his lectures. He answers and explains most of your points. Its hard to recommend these talks, the good bits are spread around 50 lectures. I'll be happy to discuss with you which bits you'll like. A first suggestion is [1][2].

>I really want is to talk to deeply self-aware people struggling with the boundaries of human knowledge.

I love to talk to such people also, so I search for them in the (scientific) crowd and befriend them so we can have those interesting conversations. Please contact me (morphle @ ziggo dot nl) and lets find out if we can have such a meaningful and satisfying exchange.

[1] http://esug.org/data/Videos/Alan%20Kay/StateFarm-Kay-2009-10... [2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N9c7_8Gp7gI

> It's like you try to peel back a single layer of why people believe what they believe and there's nothing there.

I'd like you to consider that something in your manner of "peeling back" is causing people to block you out

If I get the impression someone has pre-judged me or is generally disagreeable, I don't feed the bear. I just don't care what they think and if looking dumb gets me out of that conversation quickly that is fine by me.

If anyone is having difficulty empathizing with the parent's perspective, perhaps reflect on how often you've heard people dismiss infants and young children with something like vaguely like "all they do is sleep, eat and poop". They're "not interesting". You "can't have a conversation with them". It's like there's a lack of background knowledge or observational skills or available attention or interest or systems skills or something or something else, to perceive someone's awesome cognitive and emotional life struggle to fruitfully engage with the world, and the associated opportunities to learn from them and maybe help out a bit.

Or alternately, perhaps there is some sense in which that "not interesting" reflects a useful metric, and perhaps some folks might then find it useful to apply to one's self? ;) And such application might be mutual, or transient, or topical, or situational, or ... any of the many things that throttle the attention and empathy of people and groups, unavoidably or otherwise.

Why not just avoid these people altogether? If it makes you more happy to be around PhD's, find a setting where there's a bunch of them.

Might be a good idea to find a place with lots of PhD folks.

I think I know what you mean since I prefer to talk to friends who are genuinely interested in programming and not just a job. Colleagues who are just here for the job I still talk to them but with other topics which I usually learn from as well - as long as you are willing to listen despite what you may think of them.

"find a place with lots of PhD folks"

Well, academia is full of them and I found it to be the worst place for petty office politics and daft rivalries, as the old saying goes:

"Academic politics is the most vicious and bitter form of politics, because the stakes are so low."


It's less about sharing their interest in those things -- sports, wine, kids -- and more about being interested in the person:

"why did you find yourself interested in wine?" "what was it like having kids?"

etc. learning to ask very open-ended questions is really helpful here. you don't need to have knowledge of their interests to share in their interests.

This is what peeling back a single layer is. I can only understand and sympathize with the GP's position to some extent, a lot of these "check yourself" replies seem very well put, but it's absolutely the case that there are people who for lack of a better term can be called unthinking. A more insulting turn of phrase might be "NPC". "Why did you find yourself interested in wine?" Not unrealistic answer: "Haha I dunno I just like the flavors, was introduced to it by x." Circle around to the topic again, they'll repeat that, and might not even remember you already talked about it. Trying to decompose "flavors" with them (whether you care or not) is unlikely to bear fruit.

Talking about their relationship with X is a logical follow on, of course, and has more fruit-bearing potential. I think one can have interesting conversations with everyone and it's important to converse with a variety of humans (fellow office workers of any profession being a tiny sample) but sometimes you can only hope to go for breadth, not so much depth. It takes the patience and training of a clinical psychologist to get anywhere with some people, and it's not often worth it.

Sounds like you assign value to people who are pushing on the boundaries of human knowledge and/or have a PhD. That’s fine but many other people have many other ways of valuing people and relationships (for example people who value helping people). My wife doesn’t have a PhD nor has she made any groundbreaking leaps forward in human knowledge but my interest in her and the immense value I place on her in my life is something that cannot be quantified. And separately, there are some amazing PhDs out there but I’ve also met tons of PhD that weren’t anything close to impressive. And conversely, have met some people in my industry that could run intellectual circles around other PhDs (seriously).

I think you may get more out of life with a more open mindset. Things may surprise you. That being said, you value what you value, we don’t have to like it or agree with it.

This is one way: by having an active goal for listening


Try to explore a person like you’d explore another world. Consider that this person had just as much time as you in the day, and they filled it up with other stuff. Why did they choose to focus on X, what do they find so appealing about X, what nuances or locations do you not know but they have intimately experienced?

Adult people, after all, did a lot in their life. Why not get new perspectives?

It also seems you don’t do a lot of physical activity, sports, or developing yourself in that way. You may motivate yourself by looking up to people in an area you truly would like to improve in.

“We are all idiots, just on different subjects” - who was that?

Get off your own pedastal and take others off the imaginary pedastal you've put them on. Everyone is a pedestrian. Everyone can only ever be a person with human interests and the same limits of human capabilities. I realized this about others early on, but it takes a real moment of reflection to realize this yourself. Being conceited is not an admirable quality. I've very much been there, I know this, but don't remember what it's like. I do remember, that it's a tool. It's a tool and a copout for understanding the human context that you're in and being vulnerable.

In addition, if you haven't found what makes someone interesting or can't conceive of it, you haven't looked past the outermost level. Once I started sitting down with people, setting my ego aside, and listening to what they're interested in, I was way happier and realized that the small world I placed myself in—this artificial bubble of grandeur—was kind of depressing, and pure intellectual pursuits alone aren't enough to live a fullfilling life. You have to find balance.

I trade long diatribes about urban development with meandering tales from the theater industry or discover the background I didn't know existed in the colleage that I've been working with. I'll concede that in a vast, vast minority of cases I can't find a thread to go deeper on. It's usually because they've put up a wall for some reason or another, or their current set of pursuits or passions or romances is just pretty vanilla, and that's okay. Sometimes it doesn't work out, but you gotta explore the human connection. If I didn't take this approach, I would have written off everyone in my life, including one specific developer I know who had a very similar attitude. Through time, I found the value in those people and it's super rewarding to me that they remember my name after a year being gone from a relatively new city. We're just people passing through this world, and everyone has something different and interesting about them... if you let your gaurd down.

People want to make social stuff work. It doesnt work, its founded on a crazy foundation of playing a role and escaping who we really are. Real passion in PhD like stuff can pierce such roleplay, which is why it is stimulating. There are other things and contexts where this is possible, but in regular society it is rare. Take responsibility for that you have different needs then most people and find these contexts. For me its a couple of close friends, some zen meditation circles, some carefully selected coworkers in my own business, hacker news sometimes. The world really is asleep, mostly :) Nothing wrong with that per se, but yeah its very very boring to converse with, and it has taken me a long time to find a comfortable place in it.

You sound like the typical "science guy" who thinks he is the smartest person on earth because: PhD.

Of course all others are "below you" but you know what?

THIS is your blind spot (let this be told to you by people who understand humans much better than you ever will). In science I've seen a lot guys who think like this and the most of them struggle hard to organize their own life.

If you'd be less arrogant you'd see how interesting and fun live can be and how people you now consider "waste of oxygen" might surprise you again and again with their skills and points of view.

I deeply wish that you can overcome this and be happy in your life some day.

I can relate in a sense but I remind myself often that I should be very grateful that the legacy of the enlightenment period meant there was a greater chance I would live a fulfilling life with a good education. I'm grateful to the people who worked to share knowledge and education through the intervening centuries. I'm grateful those people didn't think of those less fortunate to be paper shells not worthy of their time.

If I'm not trying to live up to that standard, at least in how I treat others, or if I'm unable to learn a lesson about peoples potential from that, then I am probably not seeing the bigger picture.

It sounds like you have a very narrow set of interests and are calling other people boring for not having the same interests. You either need to broaden your interests, which sounds unlikely to me, or just accept the fact that you'll never be that personable and this advice isn't for you.

Edit: I find people generally interesting so it's easier for me to find specific people interesting. If you dig a layer deeper and try to figure out why people have that religiosity or consumerism it can be fascinating.

I'll use another angle: If people are paper shells, remember that somebody (in fact, a lot of people) has written on it. Generic human psyche can be rather simple (monkeys with smartphones), but the structures we collectively impose on this material are fascinating.

Next time you find someone boring, try to understand what made them this way. And I swear the answers is more complex than "it's capitalism/neoliberalism/consumerism/religion/whateverisyourfavoriteevil, stupid!"

I had a similar line of thought, but reading about Introspection Illusion (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Introspection_illusion), really opened my eyes. It was not others who were uninteresting but it was me who felt that how others think is somewhat "inferior" (unless they are interested in topics that I like).

> It's like you try to peel back a single layer of why people believe what they believe and there's nothing there.

There has to be something even if it is a primal behavior motivated by survival and reproduction.

Anyway, the vast majority of people care about something. Maybe you can sympathize with that if not with their lack of reflection, imagination, and eloquence.

While I don’t find people boring, there are certain topics that I’d rather stay away from.

For example : In my team of 6, I am the only one who isn’t married and who doesn’t have kids. The other people almost always talk about their kids, show photos, brag about their achievements - after a while, fatigue sets in. Maybe because I can’t relate? I don’t know.

>I find that anyone who isn't a PhD (or could easily have been if they hadn't gone into industry) might as well be a paper shell

Wow, so wasting years and years of your life studying texts and churning out reworded content about those texts, instead of having life experiences makes someone more interesting to you?

I hate kids and I hate talking about sports. I don't know anything about wine. So I let them talk for a bit and then change the subject. I find something that we can talk about that we are both interested in. If all they want to talk about is kids or sports then get better friends.

No matter who much highly one thinks of one self, there will always be some knowledge, experience or perspective that they lack. That's part of being finite and human.

I always view meeting new people as opportunities to think outside of my own worldview.

One doesn't have to accept or agree to other viewpoints.

>>How am I supposed to get along with people without feeling like a complete fraud?

Simple. You don't. People like frauds. Even though they fall victims over and over again, they just can't help but like them. You are doing nothing wrong in being what they like you to be.

Have you tried hanging out with the people on /r/iamverysmart? During your downtime, I'd also recommend this show called Rick and Morty. It can only truly be enjoyed by someone with a deep grasp of the boundaries of human knowledge on all subjects.

getting along with people and linking them or finding them interesting is different things.

getting along with people at work generally entails (for everyone) to laugh at jokes you don't find funny, and be ok with behaviours you wouldn't accept from 'friends'. That's life, learning to live with people daily. it's one of the most valuable things you can learn, to get along with people even if you don't like them or have no interest in them.

Just remember being nice and helpful doesn't mean you need to be someone's friend. you can be nice and helpful to everyone you meet and still dislike them or find them uninteresting. it's just making life easier / causing less friction daily.

You sound a lot like my father. In social situations he would rather sit in a corner and read his book. To him everyone else is boring, his words, not mine.

I think you've completely missed the meaning of the term "unexamined life." Socrates chose death, you've chosen exile.

Ask not how they can give you a rich experience, but how you can try to give them one.

An interesting person once said, "if you're bored, you're boring."

Even a PhD does not mean that I would want to have a conversation with that person.

Thanks for being that open. I agree. Is there a way to get in touch with you? ;)

Where do you live? Do you actively try meeting people with common interests?

It's not a good idea to make human empathy your dump stat.

Look into a mirror, and imagine that the person in the mirror is a different person. Try to discern how that other person feels about looking at and talking to you.

Now imagine that you are the reflection, and that you actually do not exist when the real person is not looking into the mirror. What could you do for your person to keep them looking into your mirror longer, and therefore allow you to exist longer?

Once you have mastered that perspective shift, remove the mirror, and instead stand in front of another person. Imagine that you are their reflection, and they are yours. What would it take for the person and person-reflection that you both are together to be happier in that moment?

There are no NPCs in real life. Everyone wants to believe that their existence has value, even when all they ever do is useless, dull, pedestrian things all day and all night. Maybe they are that way from lack of intelligence or ability. Maybe they once had hopes and dreams of usefulness that were ground down and rounded off by the endless tides of banality and mediocrity, until everything they once wanted to be, or to do, is now beyond their reach. Maybe they discovered that intellectualism was a false promise, and that those who pursued it became lost in self-delusion, believing themselves to be better and more important than others, when in reality they were all just walking slabs of meat that hadn't died yet, just like everyone else.

When someone gazes into the void, they feel that fear--the fear that nothing really matters, that everyone you have ever known or loved or heard about will die, and everything everyone has ever done will be forgotten and lost to entropy. The one thing that salves it for the moment just may be that knowledge that someone out there knows your story, today. If you can submerge your ego, for just a moment, to stand and listen to someone's boring-ass story about some trivial part of their stupid life, without showing on your face or with body language that it is excruciatingly dull, then that person will no longer be empty. You will have put a small reflection of them inside of you, and that might make them happy for a bit. You won't advance the boundaries of human knowledge, but you will make humanity a tiny bit more connected and eusocial.

Is that important? No. Not at all. Everyone you have ever known or loved or heard about will die, and everything everyone has ever done will be forgotten and lost to entropy. Billions of people have lived, died, rotted, and disintegrated, with little more left of them now than a damaged strand of DNA in a fragment of a tooth. And so will you. Any illusion you may have that you, or the things you do, are greater or more important than other people is just preventing you from connecting with those you see as lesser. All that crap you cannot stand in other people--their irrational beliefs and practices--may be their attempt to avoid even glancing at the screaming black maw of nihilism, so it doesn't eat away all their sanity and motivation. They might only be doing it because no one cares to know their story, today. And if you wish to be seen as important, isn't that just your desire to put a tiny reflection of yourself in as many other people as possible?

I put up with people talking about kids and gods and sportsball and food, not because it is important to me, but because it is apparently important to them. I can stand between them and the void, because I'm not scared of it any more. I can help people pretend that their life has meaning, and I don't need to pretend that mine has more meaning than theirs--because zero equals zero. If you only have to peel back one layer to find the empty, is that better than peeling back two, or five, or ten? Is the value of a person in the number of hollow shells they have around their nothing at all? I personally don't need to be considered important or remembered any more. And that makes me boring, because I generally don't talk about myself, or my niche interests, unless someone asks. Nobody ever asks. So instead, I put on a distracting performance, with the existential black hole of the inevitability of utter annihilation by time and entropy as my backdrop.

Get over yourself. You are as individually important as a raindrop in a hurricane. Take the opportunity to dance in the wind before falling back into the ocean.

When life itself has no inherent meaning, what you choose to do anyway becomes performance art.

> I find almost everyone intensely boring.

You're probably projecting. All your hyper-specific interests are intensely boring to ordinary people, so you retaliate by declaring them boring. It maintains your self-image.

People aren't boring, they're extremely interesting creatures that can be studied endlessly. Unlike the other great apes, you can even interact with them with human speech! So many possibilities, yet you're sitting here wasting it all.

You'd probably counter this by saying that looking at people this way is somehow immoral. I'm not going to argue with that, it's a useless argument to have.

> Small talk, feigning interest in kids, in sports, in wine, in whatever useless dull, pedestrian thing a coworker is into.

You don't have to feign interest, just let them talk about themselves and stay polite until you get what you want, which is either that the moment of conversation has passed, or something about them (or people in general) that is interesting. Either way, you're not going to be stuck in the conversation forever.

Childhood behavior in particular is an interesting topic, as is the decision to have (or not have) children. I know, you're not going to have children, but you have a rationale for that. What's that rationale? It's probably something highly misanthropic, outside the overton window of the ordinary person. Isn't it fun to see people's reaction to that? Well, perhaps not the best thing to do at work, but fun nonetheless.

> I find that anyone who isn't a PhD (or could easily have been if they hadn't gone into industry) might as well be a paper shell. I can put on a mask of civility and charm when needed, but all I really want is to talk to deeply self-aware people struggling with the boundaries of human knowledge.

Really? That's what you want to talk about over a coffee break? Come on...

> Nearly every time I work up the motivation to try to really get to know someone who I think I may have judged too quickly I find religiosity, passive consumerism, an unexamined life, something so distasteful that it takes ages before I can do it again.

Yeah, maybe don't be such a judgemental person. You clearly haven't examined yourself enough to recognize that this is a ridiculous attitude. You need to realize that this is a defense mechanism of your brain to save your fragile little ego from getting hurt. The flip side is that if you're overly judgemental, you'll be overly judgemental regarding yourself, as you clearly are.

> How do people put up with it?


You sound like a sociopath.

Are you a sociopath?

Its possible. More likely is that this attitude is a defense mechanism for this person to feel better about their lack of emotional and social intelligence.

A stereotypical jock/lad will look down on guys who are not athletic or can't get girls and make fun of the nerd who prefers reading books and contemplating philosophy.

A stereotypical nerd (like the commenter here) will look down on guys who only talk about sports and girls and will write posts like this on hacker news about how dull these people are.

The reality is that all of these aspects of life are important. Knowledge is important for reasons which will be obvious to most HN readers. But so is sport - all humans need physical exercise, the body and mind do not function well without it. So are attractions to the opposite sex - do I need to explain how new humans come to being?

So to say that somebody is dull for wanting to talk about sports or kids is as narrow-minded as it is to say that your dull for wanting to read books.

Just getting along with people is pretty reductionist on that idea I agree. It's a fantastic book and I agree with you on every part other than that bit of explanation. I think a better way to phrase it might be to find a way to say things in ways that aren't offensive, which takes a long time to learn, and don't look for a fight when it isn't looking for you. You're not always going to be able to say the same thing to different people and get the same results, this is a lesson that took me a long time to learn. I would say things I didn't find offensive in the slightest, nor did I mean in any way insulting, however others would take it as a personal insult, even if it was just simply the reality of the situation.

A way to meet the second part of don't go looking for a fight is to follow advice that's actually a rule here and assume the best possible interpretation of what's being said.

I really love this recommendation.

Wow very nice summary of the main ideas of the book, I totally agree, this book is worth reading...

I was reading reading "the making of a manager" by Julie Zhuo earlier this month (which b.t.w. I personally think is a very good book), in her book she mentioned the book "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie (at first I was a bit scared by the title, to me it sounded like a mind control bullshit boot, but it's actually very interesting, I can't definitely recommend it, because I'm only on page 50 or so). But I think the book "How to Win Friends and Influence People" is a good source to learn or just get remembered about the things you mention in your question, like "dealing with your own emotions" or "improving the quality of the communication with your coworkers / team".

Carnegie was a big influence (no pun intended) on Charles Manson. But the book itself is 100% effective; I read my personal Cliffs Notes version of it before meeting clients and it absolutely grounds you in the idea that other people just want to be listened to, respected, and successful.

HTWFAIP is a book I have trouble remembering over time. I find that if I don't at least listen to the audiobook yearly I'll find myself slipping back into the shitty habits that made me unhappy enough to pick it up in the first place.

Just my opinion: the content of the book is for a certain type of person with a certain desired direction in life.

For another group of people the complete and opposite advice is the "right" way to go about it.

Trying to live life by other's people strengths and desires will cause a lot more problems than it will solve.

It sounds like Carnegie teaches similar lessons a book I read earlier this year. Marshall Rosenberg's "Nonviolent Communication: a Language of Life" was one of the most important things I've ever read. It's written by a clinical psychologist-turned-peacemaker. He prescribes a simple method for conducting conversations based on principles of empathy and compassion and gives many examples of its successful use in diffusing conflicts from interpersonal relationships to civil wars. The framework is also helpful for internal dialogues and coming to terms with personal issues.

There is the converse argument that people who behave this way do so "naturally". And it may work well for that set of people.

There are also people like Grothendieck who were notorious for insisting on individuality and were the better off for it.

You can also be likeable and follow these steps "naturally" in a group that is closer to your affinity whereas in other groups you are the clear outsider.

Maybe I just don't like these kind of books?

Totally agreed, what a great book, It has helping me so much!

"It may be fair to say that it’s impossible to win an argument." 10/10

What really struck me about this book is just how obvious almost everything in it seemed. I guess I found it pretty boring precisely because it's such good advice (since the best ideas usually sound obvious once you hear them).

Kudos for last point. Analogous to - https://m.signalvnoise.com/habits-always-form/

Or just be yourself, don't give a f* about what people think and don't be an asshole just for the sake of it.

Interacting with people is like driving: you have to avoid crashing into others, but sometimes you make a mistake and others will avoid crashing into you. And wear seat belts.

That's a good advice unless "being yourself" sucks. "Be yourself" is non-advice. It can be both good and terrible advice depending on many factors.

Everyone is complex. There are aspects we're comfortable with and others we are not. So you want to improve the latter and stick with the former as long as they work for you, in a sense they help you achieve what you aim for.

Some aspects of yourself aren't really working in some environments so you would just be an idiot to display them while failing to get the results in life you really want to.

> That's a good advice unless "being yourself" sucks. "Be yourself" is non-advice

That's not objective though, "you suck" is entirely subjective, it also depends on context and, in the end, if someone you work with thinks you suck, just talk to them.

> Some aspects of yourself aren't really working in some environments

So change environment, because sooner or later they will show up.

And if you repress them, they will show up amplified.

Admitting I'm wrong or that I screwed up, and likewise praising others when they're correct or have ideas I agree with.

You would not believe how much smoother everything at work is when you learn to recognize early the signs that you're holding on to a bad opinion, or that you're headed towards a fuckup, and just saying it out loud.

The praising / agreeing thing is a bit more complex. I've noticed more recently that people tend to be quick to disagree but remain silent even when they agree with someones opinion.

Specifically calling out when you agree with an idea has some marvellous effects. The silent ones who also agree join in, people who disagree join the fray, and a rough consensus can be reached quickly.

Admitting I'm wrong or that I screwed up ... You would not believe how much smoother everything at work is when you learn to recognize early the signs that you're holding on to a bad opinion, or that you're headed towards a fuckup, and just saying it out loud.

Avoiding judgement of those that have screwed up or have done something wrong, and simply working with them to correct it goes hand-in-hand with this. By the time someone admits they did something wrong, they already know what they did - by dwelling on that you're just wasting time and energy.

I wonder occasionally how many problems there are in the world that have become much bigger than they needed to be simply because the person who messed up knows the news won't be received well, so they keep their screw up hidden. Similarly, I wonder how effectively we teach children this kind of dishonesty by teaching them that honesty results in punishment.

Also, forgive them!

I hate it when people hold something against someone forever, even though they've already admitted fault. If they get punished even if they repent, there's no incentive to ever repent again. They might as well just keep doing bad things because there's no difference for them.

One of my favourite maxims is, be hard on the problem, not the person.

depends on the screwup. You can separate them into the categories of reasonable and unreasonable.

pushing to production at 5pm on a friday is not a reasonable screwup, and I absolutely will let you know if get called in to fix something that should have waited until Monday.

Sure, there are absolutely varying degrees of screw up. You can make the same argument for anything. But for any position there is usually a general rule, and any number of exceptions.

The point here is that the general rule for human error should tend toward compassion, because the vast majority of mistakes people make are not that serious. In my world at least it seems that we prefer to tend toward punishment instead.

This might sound strange but I wish I learned how to be more assertive and less apologetic/yielding.

When I was in a 50/50 debate/discussions, in many cases I leaned towards myself being wrong and the other being right automatically...and later would feel discontent with everyone when I turned out I was right and should have pushed harder. But I guess dont know how to be assertive without being offensive or overly brazen about my frustration.

I think these two flaws actually go hand in hand, despite seeming opposed:

1. Avoiding acknowledging doubts or weaknesses in the position you're arguing for.

2. Allowing a decision to be finalised when you remain unconvinced.

These two behaviours have different outcomes if you take 'outcome' to mean 'who won the debate'. But they're both flawed and they both come from underconfidence.

Confident engineers care about finding the best consensus. They openly entertain doubts in their own position (and happily change their position in front of others), and they also persist with the discussion until they're genuinely satisfied with whatever consensus is reached.

Likewise, I tend to give the other person the benefit of the doubt, and when one party accepts the possibility that they might be wrong while the other party professes ironclad certainty that they're right, the argument almost always goes to the latter.

These days I temper my "I'm not certain so we should investigate this" with "but you're not certain either so you're not getting out of investigating it and admitting you're wrong if it comes to that."

Yet another variation on this important theme: do not be afraid to speak up when you see areas of waste around you.

You think this or that project is not solving the right problem? Speak up. You think some key result should be achievable with fewer people and sooner than what was planned? Speak up.

I learned this recently, sharing feedback that I was concerned would sound harsh, only to fall on receptive and understanding ears. If anything I should have spoken up sooner/more often!

Your team/startup/etc. will thank you.

I have been in the same situation and I observed it happens more often when discussing with non-technical team members. What I think is happening here is that I forget how "business people" can have different knowledge and beliefs than I do. Assuming good intentions, it might be just lack of information on both sides that make us hold back and assume "they are probably on the right track". And IMHO that is good news because there are many possible paths to address this common issue.

It obviously a case of needing a balanced approach. Your comment and the parent are for two initial and opposed problems.

That sounds super familiar. One time my team lead moved a meeting one day back for a week, even though I mentioned that the meeting was important every day. When we finally had the meeting, she was mentioned that I took care of it too late. In these situations I tend to be too much 'yes and amen', and I should push back some more.

I've had an unhealthy fixation on my opinions/ideas, which usually resulted in me being overly emotional when they were attacked or disproven. I found out this has been a great source of frustration for me, and for the people around me as well.

> Admitting I'm wrong or that I screwed up (1), and likewise praising others when they're correct or have ideas I agree with (2).

That's what I'm focusing on, now. However, although I always mean it, both (1) and (2) — at least in my ears — sound fabricated and artificial, even patronizing at times, as if I've been trying to manipulate the people around me instead of being a better human.

So, that said... How do you do (1) and (2) properly?

For me, realizing that I ought to behave in some manner is only half of the problem; the other is finding out _how_ exactly I should do that.

The other way to look at this was pointed out to me in the book 'Being Wrong' by Kathryn Schulz (amazing book, btw).

What is your goal? Is your goal to be right, or is your goal to feel right? Because those are not the same things at all. When we get attached to our ideas and emotional, it's because we believed we were right, and we don't want to give up that feeling.

But if our goal is to actually be right, then it's super easy to recognize when you got it wrong and move forward.

It also helps to stop thinking of things as 'correct' or not, and look at them as a spectrum of 'less wrong' to 'more wrong'. If you're constantly working your way towards being less wrong, then it becomes really easy to abandon ideas that have outgrown their usefulness.

The first thing you need to do is admit you are an idiot - constantly doing or saying stuff you regret forever, - and always have been an idiot, and will remain one in the future; probably do even more stupid stuff you will regret today.

Get it? This is the whole trick.

I agree! ;)

I try to make it more meaningful by saying why I agree with or like something in order to clarify the (prefferably shared) values behind my appreciation.

I've also recently used a torrent of appreciation (the Mesita strategy) to build up the self-esteem of a person struggling with self-confidence.

The trick is it has to be honest and at least somewhat meaningful to them (it's not good to compliment someone on things they don't value).

A really over the top example: complimenting a woman in the workplace on her looks. will definitely not be appreciated and these days might get you fired ;)

Sometimes you find yourself "arguing" only to realize you're talking about the same thing using different words. In other words... you both agree.

In other cases you're arguing different aspects of the problem and not realizing it.

I do agree with you though, admitting being wrong is better than being stubborn and wasting time and progress. It is something everyone up and down the chain of command should take to heart, you'll find yourself wasting less company resources, time and energy.

I regret praising others early in my career, being helpful and always looking for my mistakes.

Those who didn't that got a headstart, went further, earned more, took some opportunities that weren't available to me and now, with more money, bigger houses, happier wifes and families, they like to say that they should have acted different in the past.

This is good advice. When it's hard to quantify competence as it is in our industry, arrogance is a huge advantage.

You have to weigh it against "If I had behaved like they did, would I be happy with myself?"

Introspection is life's one true and very real super power.

> You would not believe how much smoother everything at work is when you learn to recognize early the signs that you're holding on to a bad opinion, or that you're headed towards a fuckup, and just saying it out loud.

Doesn't this make you feel good but piss of the other person even though they may be wrong? On the other hand it never wears off if you don't let it out, but the problem is there are lot more peoples opinions to consider other than the person you are dealing with. Its lose-lose situation.

Hello down voter care to reason. My question is genuine. I think the author has some point, but just that i could not get it. May be i should have asked to describe more which would have clarified my intent properly.

I think he is saying that if he is wrong to admit it. I can't see why the other person would be pissed off...

For example if I see that I made a wrong decision earlier in a process and I tell my colleagues that I screwed the pooch, it allows us to get back on track quickly and they would probably be happy that I admitted to my earlier mistake.

I hate to admit it but one of my bosses taught me that building consensus is a double edged sword and it can be used as weapon. Up until working with him I naively assumed we could all get in a room, hash out our technical differences and agree to a solution.

That only works when everyone is (from your perspective) not a bad actor. But how do you deal with an Executive Director who will bald-faced lie and say whatever he needs to say to ensure his deadlines are met and your needs are completely ignored?

My boss taught me how to pin that ED down and get what I need by documenting everything to exhaustion but also by building consensus around the bad actor so his peers were on board with forcing him to comply. I hope to never find myself in that situation again.

Four levels of decision making:

Consensus: everyone agrees. Most time consuming.

Vote: have two or more appealing options. Majority wins, but everyone is relatively happy with the outcome.

Consult: get everyone's input, but ultimately you decide.

Dictate: you decide, no external input. Fastest.

If you start a meeting by outlining which process you intend to use it helps. All are valid approaches, and depend on the context of the situation.

I use consult quite often when deciding on a technical direction.

Consensus is NOT about everyone agrees on the solution... it's about everyone agrees that they have been heard and understood.


That link defines what the IETF means by "rough consensus".

In this context, I think it just refers to "general agreement".


Another vote for following it up. These kind of people usually have one tool that works well in that environment because nobody anticipates their level of mendacity.

We should start identifying and naming these ploys in categories. The tactics are so diverse and situation specific that the list is too long to be more useful than a bunch of grievances, but their logic that identifies the opportunity to apply the tactic is going to be a very small set.

Is it just asserting counterfactuals and betting on the agreeableness of others and your power relationship to them to become implicated in it?

e.g. 1. "You're going to have this by thursday." Repeat until people stop challenging you because you are unreasonable or insane. 2. tell a third party, "X told me he would have this by thursday." 3. "If you don't have this by thursday Third Party will hold you accountable and I will not help you."

The play seems legitimate because you are driving an issue by getting bigger players to have a stake in the outcome, and making yourself the broker between that power and the delivery team.

As awful as it is, some of this is just the lot in life of being on the delivery side instead of the management side.

That there can be bad actors is not an intuitive concept for some people (say, if you were brought up on Mr. Rogers, warm-fuzzy schools, etc.).

I was fortunately(?) well into my career before I really encountered bad actors (somehow, I only worked with decent people, until then), and it was shocking where I finally did find it, which would've been the last place I would've suspected.

Another thing I learned, after the existence of bad actors, is that, AFAICT, there aren't really that many of them. (Well, outside of some pockets, including aspects of business and politics that expect and embrace a cutthroat environment, and in which professionalism involves calculating game theory of relationships and grabbing advantage.)

What's very, very common, however, and I think often mistaken for bad actors, is various kinds of arrogance. Most everyone has at least a bit, in some regards, (I do) and some have a lot.

Another way arrogance and bad actors can get conflated, or the lines blurred, happens when a very arrogant party gets in a mess because of that (imagine a powerful person who gets away with a lot, until they don't), or mistakes someone else for a bad actor, and then bad actor behavior is summoned to fix.

Can you share more details of the situation? I'm curious what they were lying about and how you pinned them down.

"Executive Director" is a clue. That's a common title at investments banks inc JPMC, GS, MS. I suspect the story will recount political machinations typical on Wall St or City of London.

Yes but it's 1 AM here. I'll reply in the morning when I can give a cogent answer.

When you wake - i'd love to read it too. I want to second the opinion that learning to build consensus is a very, very valuable skill. It's how a lot things really get done. I've never gone so far as to document things extensively or really need to, but it sounds like you learned some very interesting tactics on how to build consensus effectively because you were forced to. Not a fun position to be in, but if you could share the tips that would be valuable.

One advice I've read/heard is to make sure to give everyone a chance to give his/her input and address any concerns. It should be done individually so everyone has space.

Should a decision be made that was not favorable to one individual, at least it was discussed and was given the chance to give his/her opinion.

Yeah. It's definitely something that's worth remember is to ask the quiet ones.

I'm also interested in the reply and putting this comment in as a stub to check back.

I found the book Political Savvy by DeLuca to be quite a good read on this topic. It is very analytical about the political games in a large organization.

Why do you hate it to admit it? I would like to have this knowledge too.

I think that the "how to deal with bad actors" chapter of book is never written or the general advice of "just appease them to avoid them retaliating", then the good actors are not equipped to deal with bad actors.

I would really love to read more details about this as well.

Can you provide a detailed (even if fictitious) example?

Not everyone responds the same. I hated when people would use fluffy language: "would it be okay if you could do X?" Dammit...just tell me to do X. I know you're not really asking me you're just trying to be nice for something that has to be done.

Well... turns out just because I like to hear feedback or orders directly, doesn't mean everyone else does. Part of why your manager treads carefully is because they have to try and create a shared language across your whole team (and really good managers know how to talk to each of their directs because they know exactly what kind of tone is effective for each of them).

Not everyone is the same. Understand that everyone likes to be treated well, but the way you do that is different. Empathy is an extremely underrated skill to have.

This is something I learned late as well. I like to think I'm thick skinned and can take instructions directly. Really I have my thin spots like everyone else.

I started examining the times when a boss or co-worker would really piss me off and realized it was because their tone was off. I also realized that the great managers were so good at tone that I wasn't even realizing they were telling me to do something, I just did it as if it were my idea without any of the rank-pulling that goes into being ordered to do something. I think the only way to learn this properly is to watch the reaction of someone when you ask them to do something like a hawk, then adjust your tone accordingly.

The fluffy language itself is just one of the more generic techniques to avoid pissing off your reports, but a great manager goes way beyond always fluffy. In particular, "I'm not too sure about this thing, can you take a look at it?" is like my big red launch button and several managers have found it.

That reminds me of that episode of The Office where Jim realizes he can't just choose a single cake and his "idiot" boss has a really difficult job of balancing everyone's needs, applying the right touch and keeping the whole ship running smoothly.

I disagree. If somebody asks you "would it be okay if you could do X?" it's easier to say that it's a bad idea, or if it's not a priority, or there could be alternatives, or if this needs to be talked about with the team... It opens up more of a conversation than just saying "Do x".

The thing is, most of the stuff is [relatively] flexible in this world - and that "fluffy" language is used to navigate through this flexibility. So in your case, it might just be that if you don't feel for doing some particular X, another teammate might do it instead. Besides, politeness matters.

interesting point you brought up, I also hate "fluffy" languages. Besides "Would it be okay..." the other one that grinds my gears the most is when you ask around for a favour people be like "I'd love to but I can't because <insert bullshit excuse>", why can't you just tell me you can't or rather, not bother responding at all, I'd honestly feel better that way. But perhaps you're right... not everyone is the same and everyone likes to be treated well.

Good advice. This is what should be said in place of "effective communication".

This is important. I get along with a bunch of people once they realize when im direct, i dont mean to insult them, but until that relationship is functional, knowing how to say things become really important. For some, you can never be straight and it is ok.

I learned the hard way to not underestimate how competitive and treacherous some people can be in the workplace. I was a long-term contractor in a large company and had an incident where I confided to another employee about some issues I was having negotiating my pay at contract renewal time. I never mentioned any numbers, just that a manager had previously promised me a pay-raise and was not honouring their word. Within two hours I was called into a senior manager's office to be reprimanded for discussing this matter publicly. In retrospect I can see the warning signs exhibited by this employee that I had ignored, and I now see that I should have kept this to myself, however I worked very closely with this employee and felt that this employee would keep what I had told them in confidence. After this incident I saw many other examples of how duplicitous this particularly employee could be when they felt threatened by the ability of others. Ultimately I was not disciplined, but I learned a valuable lesson in the process. For anyone wondering why this was an issue in the first place: It's generally a policy to keep pay and pay negotiations confidential. Employers fear the friction that can result if an employee discovers that they're being underpaid.

    > It's generally a policy to keep pay and pay negotiations confidential. 
I know that your general point is about the personal relationships, but I want to point out that this policy is bullshit. You can legally disclose your salary with anyone (including in the US). From my experience in the UK employers don't even try to pull any of these 'policies', although often employees don't go around discussing their salaries simply out of courtesy.

>You can legally disclose your salary with anyone (including in the US).

You can legally do lots of things in the US. At will employers can also legally let you go without a reason. It's not going to be easy to show that they let you go for a legally protected reason.

Don't put up with it. People reading this will have the rare luxury of working in an industry and in positions where they have a lot of leverage and a choice of employers.

(Disclaimer - it's easy for me to write this from the EU where this isn't a problem at all, thankfully.)

It's not that employers care about friction. They don't want poor negotiators realizing that could have had more. Unions have had known pay rates for years. Causes no friction whatever if it's clear what gets you what pay. Employers just want employees to undervalue their work so they can pay them less. It's a perfectly valid thing for an employer to lie to you about why and even to try to get the most work for the least pay. You should be attempting to do the same.

The friction I'm describing is what inevitably occurs when workers start openly discussing pay and realise that some among them are paid much more than others. I've seen it happen multiple times in different workplaces. Some longer-term employees discover that more junior, less experienced employees are being paid maybe 30% more and pretty much mentally check out instantly. They become instantly absolutely demoralised and will end up on a spiral downwards which either ends with them resigning or being given a massive pay-raise. I've heard someone describe the phenomena as 'contractor rot', when a full-time employee discovers how much more contractors earn.

Yes and this isn't your fault, no matter how much employers want you to feel. It's entirely up to a company how much they offer employees. Think about this, they could at any moment increase the pay off every employee without as single complaint from employees. They make a conscious choice to not increase the pay of more senior employees intentionally because they know the employees won't leave to get more money. You shouldn't feel bad because of choices the company makes. The friction isn't your fault or your concern. As I stated before companies tell you not to share because it benefits them, not you. No one feels bad when someone leaves the company for more money elsewhere, there are even companies that ask their employees to take a cut and they do and everyone feels okay with it because you're all in it together. The only time this friction occurs is when a company chooses to bring someone in for money they choose not to offer to another employee. You stated yourself that you became demoralized before sharing, in fact it was the company that brought it on. The company is trying to make you feel bad for sticking up for yourself in a contract negotiation, don't let them do that to you. You're worth more than that, both as a person and as an employee. The contractor makes other sacrifices including benefits and stability as part of their wages. If the company can't explain that it's on them, not you.

You're completely right. I'm glad to see that you're taking the side of the employee in instances like this. In this particular case, it wasn't me who became critically demoralised. It was another good employee who'd been there for years, who discovered he was being paid much less than everyone else. He resigned within a short time period of the group discussion. You're totally right about individual bargaining power. As someone who's worked as a software-engineer contracting in fintech you'll find yourself at the spearhead of capitalism ( as envisioned by someone like Milton Friedman ), for better or worse.

There's nothing wrong with capitalism or companies trying to extract the best deal they can get, but I can't stand people feeling devalued. It took me longer than it should have to realize my economic and personal value. If I can help just one other person to realize that they are valuable and more than just their work then that's a success in my book. It took my getting diagnosed with a terminal disease to get me to realize what I wanted my legacy to be and I'll spend every day I've got left trying to make this world a little bit less sucky every day.

An aside: what do you want your legacy to be?

Keeping pay negotiations confidential benefits only the company, not the workers.

It can help reduce jealousy between colleagues. How would someone feel knowing one of their other colleagues who just so happened to be a better negotiator is getting paid possibly much more than them, despite apparently similar skills/work?

So the solution is to bypass some potential jealousy through mandating secrecy, instead of making the pays more fair? Sounds like a weak argument to justify possible exploitation.

In my opinion, there's an unfair information asymmetry, as the company knows how much everyone is getting paid.

I've worked in government jobs where everyone's pays are easily known, and there is still some (smallish) amount of jealousy because those pays are still based on a grading, so some people will think that others are not doing enough work to justify their grading.

> mandating secrecy

That's unnecessary. If you've a gram of experience you should realise it's generally in your own best interests not to tell your colleagues what you're on.

> justify possible exploitation.

If you don't like the pay, get another job. I don't see where the exploitation comes from. Unless you're suggesting people who don't like the pay can't get a job, can't negotiate and should for some reason therefore be excused of the need to do either with strict pay grades? I can't see how that would work across the whole market, and unless there is pay fixing then market forces will prevent it working.

> If you've a gram of experience you should realise it's generally in your own best interests not to tell your colleagues what you're on.

Don't patronize me. I'll decide what is in my best interests thanks.

> I don't see where the exploitation comes from.

exploit - 2nd definition from google:

> make use of (a situation) in a way considered unfair or underhand.

The company is taking advantage of the fact they are the only party that has access to the information on what everyone is paid in order to benefit by paying some people less than others.

The company has a maximum that they will pay but is not telling the workers what that is, and even going so far as to make rules to prevent the workers discussing amongst themselves.

You are arguing that these circumstances are somehow a free market while simultaneously accepting that one party is artificially and unfairly impeding the free flow of information.

A free market requires informed consumers and the company is well aware of that.

The workers should be able to decide for themselves if they agree that "preventing jealousy" is a strong enough argument to justify manipulating the market. If they think it is, then fine, they are free to decide to keep their pay private.

As a party that stands to benefit, it is not up to the company to mandate what is in the best interest of the workers. That is the definition of a conflict of interest.

In my opinion, any rule that attempts to stifle communication between workers is overstepping a company's authority.

As you become more senior you'll realise that most companies won't be able to pay everyone high rates, so you'll either have to accept a cap on your pay for fairness or move to another company that doesn't publicise what everyone earns. But as I already wrote: "mandating secrecy - that's unnecessary" since it's in your own best interest.

>As you become more senior you'll realise

Once again, you are being rude and don't patronize me. And don't assume you have some higher level of understanding.

One thing I know, even at my current level of seniority, is that policies like these enable the upper levels to command astronomical pay and conditions while the workers are forced to "negotiate" for small increases.

I know that it will probably be this way regardless because obviously the higher ups are the ones who make the pay decisions.

>you'll either have to accept a cap on your pay for fairness or move to another company that doesn't publicise what everyone earns

I would happily accept a cap on my pay for fairness, and I strongly suspect that at most companies that would improve pays across the board, barring a few upper level people. The alternative is accepting a cap on my pay because of unfairness!

Regardless, I think it's ridiculous for the company to think it is empowered to prevent discussion between colleagues.

The counter argument is that salary negotiation is a skill that all employees should develop, not just the newest code framework.

I disagree profoundly.

Source: I had so many discussion where someone complained about x getting a company car. I would not be in favor of them knowing the contract I have with my employer.

Companies can abuse this fact, out of question, but there are so many other factors involved, that it doesn't seem worth it to me.

You can flip that and say the advice your co-worker needed to hear: don't be duplicitous or treacherous in the workplace. You may think it gets you ahead but this is highly illusory and temporary. When you look back you'll just have anxiety and regrets behind you, if you have decency. And when it's all over, the things you thought were really important at the time won't be, so why be a jerk about them?

Being a jerk might help get what you think you want (money, success) at the price of what you actually need (self-respect, warm relationships).

That is, of course, if it doesn't backfire. Then you get nothing.

Unfortunately, I´ve seen it bring money and success a LOT of times.

Some of the most immoral jerks I know are extremely successful and very wealthy.

Can you say white kind of warning signs were on display? This sounds like something I would walk into.

It sounds like I'm being very petty bringing these kinds of thing up, but I'll go into a bit more detail. This particular employee was extremely critical of fellow employees at his own level, and would make extremely overt attempts to ingratiate himself with senior employees and managers. We used to interview potential candidates for junior positions together. One very odd behaviour that he'd exhibit that really rubbed me the wrong way was that when we gave the applicant whiteboard tests, he would make such a concerted effort to demonstrate his superiority to the applicant by painstakingly solving and explaining the problem in gory, patronising detail before their eyes. That was how I saw it anyway, I felt that he would relish in any minor victory over other employees. I guess they call this an 'inferiority complex'. In retrospect, I feel that I should have known that someone displaying traits like these wouldn't miss the opportunity to drag me down to build himself up.

I've worked with someone who acted, down to the very last detail, exactly like what you describe. The rot went all the way to the top. Really, it was the CEO's fault that he allowed this sort of culture to flourish under him, and the company ultimately collapsed in pretty spectacular fashion.

I treated the whole thing as a learning experience and have successfully managed to avoid ending up in a similar situation since.

Not petty when it's specifically asked for and relevant to the conversation. I don't know this person so they're not so much a real person as an archetype I can look for. In this case it's always useful to remember patterns we see in others relationships apply to ourselves too. Thanks for sharing.

The world is full of fairly nice people who will spill anything you said to them to anyone for any reason in the workplace. And I'm not cynical about people, I just think it's the truth.

There are no warning signs. Just pretend everything you say to a coworker is on a public ledger.

In some cases the true, actual friends you make in the workplace, the ones you'd still hang out with years after your employment, ca be trusted. But it's still probably better to not tell them anything that could make you look seriously bad either.

> pretend everything you say to a coworker is on a public ledger

Very succinctly put. I probably could have distilled my post down to just this. If there's any one takeaway from this thread, that's it.

colleagues ARE NOT friends... they are competition. Don't tell a colleague anything personal you wouldn't tell an enemy. I've too have learned this the hard way.

yikes. you sound like a miserable person to work with

I think the lesson I would have learned in that situation is not to work there.

But who am I kidding? I DO work there!

If evolution has figured out that cooperation is the best strategy, who am I to think competing with everyone will get me far?

How to manage expectations.

That communication is incredibly important.

That the higher up the org chart someone is the busier they are. So what you spend 40 hours a week thinking about they might not spend 45 minutes thinking about. So over-communicate and remind them of important information about the project. Because they will forget lots of important details, and things that are glaringly obvious to you won't even show up on their radar.

How to sell.

> Because they will forget lots of important details, and things that are glaringly obvious to you won't even show up on their radar.

Something related that I wish I had learned much earlier: Just because that person forgets the details doesn't mean they don't care or that they're just stupid. Expecting someone several levels removed from day-to-day development to remember the exact structure of that table or how exactly we do dependency injection makes me the unreasonable one.

In some cases, it is more important to distill vs. over-communicate. Senior leaders are reliant on you to sweat the details. Finding out what is important to them can be an art form--or a simple conversation sometimes.

> That the higher up the org chart someone is the busier they are. So what you spend 40 hours a week thinking about they might not spend 45 minutes thinking about.

Respectfully, that's a proverbial crock of trite bullshit perpetuated to game the naive/inexperienced.

If the next level above me couldn't spend at least 45 minutes thinking about the general problem I've been trying to solve in the past week, then that person:

a.) is stretched way too thin (which should be pretty obvious); or

b.) seriously needs to GTFO for the sake of the rest of the team.

P.S. As a de facto (not even official) technical lead on a US$3mil+ project that I've been assigned to, I spend at least 45 minutes a week sitting on a toilet bowl thinking of ways to improve the performance of my team while literally taking a shit. What's your project manager's excuse?

> If the next level above me couldn't spend at least 45 minutes thinking...

Grandparent comment did not say "next level" above. People are often talking to people in different parts of a company, or more than one level up/down.

Use geometric reasoning. If you expect every manager to spend a fortieth of their time on each of their (forty?) direct reports' projects, then that would imply that across two levels, there's only about a minute of consideration, and for three levels, less than two seconds.

On the other hand, maybe this explains why upper management is always so disconnected.

The Four Agreements[0] is one of the best "user manuals" for how one should live life, both work and personal:

-Be impeccable with your word.

-Don't take anything personally.

-Don't make assumptions.

-Always do your best.


I liked this too. Also the sentence "You are entitled to your actions but not the results" from the Bhagavad Gita helps me.

Not that far into my career, but this one really burned me. Understanding what people's unstated motivations are is really important IMO. I spent a job working tirelessly at something that I valued a lot, but others didn't seem to care too much about. After a bit of time, I realized that most people were looking at the work from how it hurt/benefited them based on a specific (but not widely publicized) bonus structure. People's actions started to make a lot more sense when I looked at them through this lens. I was still able to do the type of work that I valued, but fitting it into other people's frameworks of what is important made a huge difference.

This is very generic. You need to elaborate.

This is going to sound absurdly simple: empathise more often.

Everyone can do it, but not everyone does it. If you make an effort to actually imagine yourself in others shoes, your boss and your colleagues, and then feel it... Do this especially whenever any negative emotions or uncertainty appear in response to a colleagues actions or words.

I think all of the so called "people skills" are just side effects by comparison. If you empathise, it's genuine, and so called people-skills will emerge naturally. This also goes beyond the mere appearance of people skills, because it will make you better understand the needs behind the demands of others, and make it more likely they take the effort to understand yours when they see you understand theirs (subconsciously).

Like I said, as a premise, it's absurdly simple, but in practice it's a big deal.

This has been the hardest for me- Some people are truly incompetent. The VAST majority are not though. They are solving the problem in the most optimal way they see fit for the constraints given to them. Constraints that you may have no awareness of, and not understanding of. Some of those constraints may not seem rational- "We have to get this out the door by next week." What you may not have a full understanding of, is that feature is going to bring in an extra 50k a week of revenue, it makes a TON of sense in that case to just hack it together and throw it out the door. From a business perspective, you can go back and rewrite it later, the economics are there.

Its very difficult to understand the top down view sometimes, or the view of someone in a lateral position. I used to fight against decisions I thought were bad too much. I try really hard to understand their perspective these days- its still a struggle, I am not always successful. To be honest though, instead of getting emotionally invested (and pissed off), its super helpful to say "ok, this is not what you would do. Lets step back and try to understand their circumstances as to why they are doing this?" Immediately everything becomes depersonalized, and its just a system to model and understand how to put your input into it to try and get the outcome you want. My stress and emotional involvement go down, happiness goes up.

I personally found it very difficult to start actively empathizing, but its really helped, and I feel is what will take me to another level in terms of leadership.

> Constraints that you may have no awareness of, and not understanding of. Some of those constraints may not seem rational- "We have to get this out the door by next week." [...] that feature is going to bring in an extra 50k a week of revenue, it makes a TON of sense in that case to just hack it together and throw it out the door.

Yes, I've encountered many variants of this scenario coming from above.

My efforts to empathise then usually evolve into a one-to-one meeting to understand the reasons for such a demand and it's importance, and to explain the technical costs for a decision which seems like a technically bad choice. Usually the result is a shared understanding of this being something that does not improve the product or thing (especially long term), but is purely a short term business decision - With that understanding it's far easier between the two of you to decide if the cost is worth it, or, if there is an alternative, or, if there is a compromise, or, in the worst case if there is a long term strategy that can reverse the technical cost while satisfying the business demands in the short term.

... but it all comes from trying to understand each other, and it doesn't have to be about negative things, it's even better when applied to all interaction and requests coming your way.

Particularly when people ask for things, almost always you can suggest a better solution. It's the classic "but what do you really want", lost of good stack overflow answers come in this form, but it applies to more than just technical domains.

Don't be an asshole. I can't stress this one enough. I don't care how smart you are, if you are an asshole, your career is not gonna work out.

Try really hard not to be negative, even when there is reason to be. Try not to be openly negative about the company or a particular employee. It's poison for you and your teammates and makes you feel worse.

Don't get defensive when someone makes suggestions to your code (I still battle this).

Don't base your self worth by other people's compliments. They're nice, but the company complements you every time they cut you a check.

When someone does compliment you, the best reaction is a simple, "Thanks!"

The people you work with are called colleagues, not friends. Sometimes it can hop over, but don't divulge personal information to a colleague that should only be shared amongst friends.

Keep your behavior professional, even if the company's culture isn't so much. Also, never get drunk at company parties.

This is amazing advise through and through. Ticks all the boxes. For many of us we spend so much time at work that we perceive our colleagues as friends. This is a fallacy. I left a job after 15 years and have maybe 1-2 real friends out of that time.

Drinking at company parties is so on point. If you need to drink a lot, make an appearance at the party and go drinking with trusted friends after.

I thought my similar position was unique, I'm glad to hear others can spend so long at a single place and have next to nothing to show for it as far as friendships are concerned. Who knows? Maybe it's the reason we we're able to stay in the same place so long?

Can't stress enough. Never over drink at party. Keep it to single glass.

Keeping behavior professional/separating colleagues and friends is on the top of my list these days. I have recently had numerous conversations with younger attorneys in my firm about this - they think “oh, our managing attorneys are great, we can be open books with them! We can talk freely about our massive hangovers and romantic dalliances...” and I try to explain how much things are exaggerated and gossiped about. Not just in the office, but in the professional community. It is a sad but true state of professional work and all human interaction. Most people are simply not your friends and will go out of their way to tell stories about you. It is baffling.

I think also you have to be aware of people's incentives. This isn't a sailing club. If someone gets some inside information about you or your work, that can be used as ammo during political battles. A lot of the office "friends" are fishing for informational arbitrage. And even a fish can keep out of trouble if it keeps it's mouth shut.

> The people you work with are called colleagues, not friends. Sometimes it can hop over, but don't divulge personal information to a colleague that should only be shared amongst friends.

This is disappointing. Offices are like high school without the fun parts. I think part of what bothers me about work in an office environment is the lack of being human or myself for so much of the day. That probably sounds more dramatic then reality. I do feel like you have to turn off emotion except overly happy.

I've realized that friends can be more of a liability at work than a benifit. Most people know this and have mastered the art of being friendly while avoiding any deep emotional involvement. When I was younger I was hungry for that high school feeling too, but it's best to look for it in other places. Professionalism is the standard for a reason.

Some hypotheticals:

You make a friend at work. That friend gets fed up with their role and quits. Your morale takes a dive.

Friend at work starts to have performance issues. You get caught between supporting your friend or the team.

Friend at work is now your boss or is put in a position to manage or inspect your work.

Friend at work gets laid off.

You share some personal details with friend, personal details are then shared with others.

You office gossip with friend over drinks. It comes back to bite you.

It was and still is hard for me as well. I tend to get emotionally involved with whatever job I do and the people I work with and that sometimes creates friction with people who prefer a level of professional detachment (or just don't care).

Anyway: I recommend the book "Reinventing Organizations" for a look at how to create more human-friendly orgs and "Time to Think" for some powerful tactics to use at a team level.

> Don't be an asshole.

It's really hard to know when you are one though. Hardly anyone thinks they're an asshole, even when they are, right?

And in some organizations, word gets around that being an asshole is how to get ahead. So less assholish people refine their inner asshole. Sometimes more or less aware of it than others.

So, what should self worth be based on? "I'm valuable just because I exist?" I'm not suggesting that's what you mean, but to me, that interpretation would be a bit arrogant. Isn't there some value in partially placing our self worth based on other's opinions-- so we can attempt to reproduce/be more of the things others find best in ourselves?

You should determine your own self worth and it should not be reliant on the compliments of others. The problem with being reliant on compliments is what happens if you are in an environment that doesn't give out compliments? Parents and teachers give you compliments to help you along, bosses usually don't or it's not often. On the flip side, what happens if you are in an environment that gives out half hearted, polite, or just plain fake compliments? Does your self worth get artificially inflated?

Your paycheck is the compliment and that's all your self worth should require outside of your own self assessment. (Wow this started to get philosophical quick).

> "I'm valuable just because I exist?"

That's a start. What missguided thinking would suggest otherwise?

But that doesn't mean, that you are valuable (able to provide value) to someone else.

However, the point about self worth, I like to make is: self worth starts with you - based on experience, and obviously supported by a feedback loop you gain confidence in what you're good at, and what not.

So, the best way to gain self worth is by gaining confidence, is by gaining experience.

I struggle with this as well as I read many warnings against deriving self-worth from external sources. However I am not free from that and I don't think I'll ever be.

I draw the line at excessive rumination when someone does NOT provide that external validation or criticizes me outright.

Unfortunately assholes often do make it to the top...

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