Programmers could be significantly more effective if they engaged with Authentic Relating practices. Authentic Relating practices are games we can play with other people to better relate to them past just a surface level of relationship. These are games that help us to be empathetic and relate to what other people like and the hardships they are going through. These practices are beneficial the personal lives and careers of everyone – not just programmers. but mostly programmers.
Authentic Relating started in San Francisco in the 90s as a repeatable way to solve interpersonal conflicts and build new relationships. The practices follow principles that have been discussed by Stephen Covey and many others that have been helping to explain social skills for centuries, which all start with a confident self.
The practices are often games that can be played by multiple individuals to solve the goals above (new relationship or solving conflict) as well as increasing empathy, strengthening the community. One example of a game is The Noticing Game. Two people sit across from each other, making eye contact, and they take turns sharing an observation, thought, or feeling that emerges. The purpose of this game is to build comfort in expressing emotion, while also increasing the amount of topics that can be discussed with an individual. Over the course of several minutes the participants will need to move past the obvious physical characteristics to talk about.
Another example is The Hot Seat. One person in a group sits in “the hot seat” for 5-10 minutes and chooses the level of spice (mild, medium, hot) which determines how deep and intense the questions will get. The group asks questions rapid-fire, receiving quick responses from the nerd in the “hot seat.” The point of this is to to build the strength it takes to be comfortable asking questions that get people to open up more, and to be comfortable receiving probing questions.
Programmers are not known for their extroversion and their ability to inspire emotion in others – inspiration that would come from connecting with the emotions of others, which comes from being empathetic and able to relate. Being empathetic and able to relate comes from practicing empathy and the ability to relate.
By engaging with these Relating practices and being more empathetic to others, programmers can build trust in the teams they are working with. They can understand the challenges other team members face – whether related to the project at hand directly or if they are related to the project indirectly – such as a hardship at home that brings the energy, creativity, and patience of the team member down. These indirect challenges can manifest in a team environment and bring the morale and results of the whole team down.
If programmers are empathetic toward these internal and external challenges, they can work to resolve them as a team instead of continuing to insist on deadlines and updates – which at this point can be counterproductive.
In addition to team members, programmers would better understand their customers’ wants and problems if they engaged in Authentic Relating practices. Programmers are usually creating something to solve a problem for their potential customers. By relating to the individual, by understanding what the customer wants to see, experience, and the problem they want solved, a programmer can address these in his work.
In addition to work scenarios – whether with team members or customers, programmers can be more effective by using Authentic Relating practices to solve those indirect problems of their own. By being better able to interact with other humans and form strong relationships, programmers can have stronger relationships with family, friends, and lovers. This can help keep the mind sharp when it needs to be – because it will reduce worry that is happening outside of the immediate situation.
Programmers could be significantly more effective if they engaged with Authentic Relating practices. They would be more empathetic to the wants and needs of others, more trustworthy in teams if they better relate to team members, and happier because of the strengthened relationships with other humans and the ability to be honest and expressive.