Published on January 29, 2013
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
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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