Bite back - Survival Techniques for Technical Authors

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Information about Bite back - Survival Techniques for Technical Authors

Published on January 29, 2013

Author: JangGraat



This was a fun presentation to give to an audience of tech writers, back in 2003. As a Philosopher and Psychologist, I was able to give people some real insights in their usual personalities and communication styles - and show them some non-aggressive methods to cope with more extravert, more aggressive bosses and co-workers.

Bite back !survival techniques for technical writers Jang F.M. Graat IF UnLtd B.V. (NL) 10th meeting of the STC-Transalpine Chapter October 15-16, 2003 - Böblingen, Germany

What’s this talk about ? Frustration in our jobs Impossible deadlines Inadequate equipment No test environment Unhelpful colleagues Products that keep changing Full responsibility for the documentation

How do people cope ? Managers... ... obey their superiors ... put on the pressure ... do not accept excuses ... do not need to listen ... can only see the cost factor ... don’t understand what employees do

How do people cope ? Developers... ... couldn’t care less ... are cool, no matter what ... don’t need anyone else ... live in their own universe ... often hide in a cloud of “Technese” ... can always blame the Devil, i.e. “Bugs”

How do people cope ? Technical writers... ... run after those with the info ... are always last to finish ... say they need no recognition ... do their work in their own time ... are kind to others by profession ... are too sympathetic for their health

We are technical listeners Communication... ... is our trade ... is our main talent ... is our biggest trap

Communicative behaviour Anne-Lies Hustings Sub-Assertive Aggressive Assertive

Styles of communicating (1) Sub-assertive putting the other’s goals first not wanting to hurt the other speaking with lots of hesitation long sentences, phrased as questions smiling a lot, even when you’re angry

Styles of communicating (2) Aggressive dominating the conversation not listening to other’s views pointing finger, eye contact stress on too many words no breaks between sentences

Some definitions (Webster’s) as-ser-tive, adj. 1. confidently aggressive or self- assured; positive; aggressive; dogmatic. 2. having a distinctive or pronounced taste or aroma. as-sert, v.t. 1. to state with assurance, confidence, or force; state strongly or positively; affirm. 2. to maintain or defend (claims, rights, etc.). 3. to state as having existence; affirm; postulate. 4. assert oneself, to insist on one’s rights, declare one’s views forcefully, etc.

Assertive in Theory

Declaration of Assertive Rights Manuel J. Smith, Ph.D. ISBN 0-553-26390-0

Assertive Right #1 You have the right to judge your own behaviour, thoughts, and emotions, and to take the responsibility for their initiation and consequences upon yourself.

Further Assertive Rights You have the right ... ... to offer no excuses or reasons to justify your behaviour ... to judge whether you are responsible for finding solutions to other people’s problems ... to change your mind

Further Assertive Rights You have the right ... ... to say “I don’t know” ... to make mistakes - and be responsible for them ... to be independent of the goodwill of others before coping with them

Further Assertive Rights You have the right ... ... to be illogical in making decisions ... to say “I don’t understand” ... to say “I don’t care”

Assertive in Practice

Persistence Technique: “broken record” don’t get side-tracked keep repeating a phrase, but don’t get angry or loud offer or accept a compromise only when your self-esteem is not in question feel good about yourself

Social communication Establish an equal relationship especially with the developers Pick up “free information” stuff told without being asked Self-disclosure relate to the free information

Manipulative criticism Requesting a justification “It is wrong to act like that” “This is a proven bad habit.” “Why do you always ... ?” Not all criticism is manipulative “I don’t like what you do” “I want something else”

Coping with manipulation “Fogging” Negative assertion Negative inquiry

Fogging Answer to critique by agreeing: “You are right, I am being irrational about this.” “You are probably right about that.” “I understand that you see it that way.” Respond only to what the critic says, not to what is (or seems to be) implied. Takes the wind out of the critic’s sails

Negative assertion Assertively accept a negative or action “You’re right. That was a dumb thing to do.” Takes away the guilt and anxiety guilt can be used to manipulate you anxiety leads to defensiveness and counter- criticism, which feeds the critic’s energy

Negative inquiry Actively prompt more (specific) criticism NOT: “What makes you think this is bad ?” “I don’t understand. What is it about my action that is bad ?” Be assertive, i.e. clear and calm, about it get the critic to specify exactly what is wrong take away the emotional response

Closing remarks

Don’t get emotional If you feel bad about what you’ve done, why not admit it was a stupid thing to do ? If you feel OK about your actions, why feel guilty ? Take responsibility for your actions and the consequences

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