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Friday, 26 June 2009 at

Re: I'm your software developer, and I'm listening - PS

Following on from this morning's post:

PS When you're writing down what your clients tell you, be very careful to write down exactly what they tell you. Lots of books on communication tell you to re-phrase what people tell you to show that you've understood, but this can so easily turn into defensiveness and make the client think that you aren't actually listening.

For example:
CLIENT: This project has been a complete disaster!
YOU: I understand that there have been a few problems.

Translates to the client as "I don't think this project has been a disaster, I think you're over reacting."

Much better (though requiring much more self control) might be:

CLIENT: This project has been a complete disaster!
YOU: OK, let me write that down. "Complete disaster." Which bits in particular do you think were disastrous?

As an old colleague of mine (who I never listened to) used to tell me,

"Make sure you've got all the poison out before you try to heal the wound."

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I'm your software developer, and I'm listening

A lot of the people I work with have difficult clients, but I suspect most of them aren't really of the same calibre as the people that William Goldman has had to deal with. In his book "Which Lie Did I Tell?" he paints a brilliant picture of movie stars as very powerful, very rich and very very paranoid. As far as I can tell from the book, directors are pretty much the same, but because they get less public attention they can actually be even weirder.

Like this - only take notes!

So, imagine the scene, you've written the script for a movie which is going to be a vehicle for a big movie star and is going to be directed by an oscar-winning blockbuster director. You get a phone call, they want a meeting to talk about the script, what do you do? Well, what Bill Goldman does is he turns up at the meeting with a big legal pad and says "OK, tell me everything. Just tell me everything that's on your mind. Let it out."

And as the star, or the director, or the star and the director, or the star and the director and the star's astrologist make comments, he does nothing but write, write, write. No matter how dumb; now matter how insulting. Just because he's written it down doesn't mean he agrees with it. It does mean that he's taking the feedback seriously and dealing with it like a professional.

He listens, he writes.

Then he talks.

The point of this approach is that it works to take the heat out of the situation. Research shows that people are no where near as desperate to be agreed with as they are to be heard. The powerful temptation when people start criticising your work is to start defending yourself. But this is a temptation you should do your level best to resist.

Capture feedback, THEN process it.

If you try to process the feedback as it's being delivered, you probably won't be listening that closely. Whoever is trying to give you that feedback will sense this. Maybe they'll become more and more strident, maybe they'll become silent and sullen and you'll think you've won the argument. All you're doing is storing up trouble.

For further information, contact (07736 807 604)

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