Composing with Difficult People

To be an effective individual is one thing. To deal with difficult people is another one. After working as a consultant on my own I got accustomed to my work flow and my attitude. When I later decided to go back and work for a large corporation I was exposed to people who spent their day abusing the system, getting angry and playing the blaming game.

When you are effective yourself you get sensitive to complainers, or generally toxic individuals. You do your best to avoid them, but sometimes it isn’t easy.

Another situation rose up yesterday where there had been an argument between my boss and another lead. Obviously, we can’t always have peace when were working on a big project with deadlines and a lot of money involved, but why not? I’ve worked on projects in the past where we had a good chemistry going and there was nothing ugly in sight that would shake us. So it is possible to work with individuals who can put their differences aside and simply become models and solution-finders.

I’ve been spending time in an environment that has been putting me down. There is guilt being felt because I see an image of myself that pulls through and pro-actively makes the difference, but deep down my other side is telling me to pull the plug and move on, to put my energy elsewhere.

So the only question that is left is : “What can I do?”, what is it, that I can do to make the most out of this kind of situation?

Helping a Friend

Yesterday I went to meet my friend for an in-door climbing session. Unfortunately for us, the center was closed down unexpectedly for renovations this week.

My friend was angry and said out loud that he was going through another series of unlucky events. We all feel down sometimes, I could feel his tension and so I began to see how I could help him get back to his prime self.

To bring someone back to a neutral mental-emotional state a great tactic is to ease him into a new state. How do we do that?

Firstly, we need to feel like were in a good place ourselves. Otherwise we will appear as fake, if we are also feeling down then let’s not mask it and just live with it. Tomorrow is another day.

If were feeling fine, we can proceed by simply mimicking his attitude. It sounds counter-intuitive, but if you mimic your friends attitude and then end on a higher note either physically(body language) or mentally(verbal) it will gradually direct him to changing the way he currently feels about things. Physically we can show strength by showing good posture. Verbally we can emphatically listen to our friend and reflect back his feeling within the context of what he’s saying[1].

This can work with people we don’t know, but it is truly effective if we have a history with said person so we can pull-in some good moments we’ve had together when we need additional ammunition.

And so I eventually managed to get a laugh or two from my friend(mind you it took a good hour). We changed our plans, I tried to sympathize with him as well since my days aren’t glorious either. It’s through separation that we start feeling the pain. If we can show people how united we are amidst our physical differences a bond is formed and solitude makes place for gratitude and compassion.

So the next time you are with someone who doesn’t want to ask for help but feels sad, try it out.

[1] The book “ 7 Habits for Highly Effective People” has a chapter devoted to emphatic listening. If you want more information I heartily recommend reading that chapter.

Computer Science and Me

I sort of slipped into CS. I barely finished high school and did not see myself in literature, politics or any other traditional field. During my orientation I told the counselor that I liked video games and wanted to pursue a career in that industry. It wasn’t a lie, but it didn’t spark much interest in me. All I knew back then was that I liked wasting my time on computers.

By the end of our first semester in CS we went from 45 students to a whooping 20. That number went down a little bit every other semester. Does who would stick with the program, called the dropouts suckers for giving up so quickly.

Today, I think that some of them are the real winners. They tried the program, didn’t fit and simply moved on. I stayed and learned quite a bit, had my fun, but I do think that part of me didn’t want to stay any longer. Sometimes you hear success stories that come from persistence and determination, but pushing against the wrong walls usually leads to stress and disappointment. And so eventually the hobby became a chore. Especially when I started working 40 hours a week for a medium-sized firm on the outskirts of town. Life became mundane.

I barely manage now, spending more than 4 hours in front of the computer drains me. I feel dizzy and my focus is wacky at best. I don’t know if regret is the right word, but I question my career choice everyday. Nothing really tangible gets built. I saw my potential when I worked at a farm for two days, we transformed old, decrepit and neglected terrain into a parcel that would yield fruit and vegetables for 50 people during 4 months.

On most days I am fighting with Docker scripts and a bunch of unresponsive servers for weeks to get a website up and running.

Obviously, I am projecting a darker lens unto this work. It can be considered marvelously interesting to dabble with scripts and write code that produces intangible fragments that can be used or viewed by millions of users. I still feel like something is slipping by though. It’s hard to put into words. I guess that all these years of programming haven’t really provided me with the fruits I expected. I can’t say that another path would have led me to a better life, but a man can wonder…