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Twelve Ways to Win People to Your Way of Thinking. Carnegie and DevOps

Communicate more effectively with your colleagues in your organisation.

This follows a series of articles on applying Carnegie’s principles to DevOps

Being able to convey your ideas effectively and without arousing resentment is very important if you aim to get things done, here are some ideas from Carnegie on how to do this:

1) The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it

It’s sad to say that arguments generally have little to do with facts and a lot more to do with pride. When two people engage in an argument, it may start with differing opinions that are based on perceived facts, but it can quickly escalate into something personal.

When fighting an argument, even if you can provide overwhelming evidence that you are right and the other person is wrong, it is very rare that you will make friends this way.

It takes a really magnificent human being to just say, “I was wrong, I am sorry, and thank you very much for educating me.” Don’t expect to find many people like this as most are not, and probably neither are you.

So next time you are precipitating head first into an argument, try and take a step back and look at it from the other person’s point of view, if you have the time you could even prod with questions to see how that conclusion was reached and emphasise with the other person’s point of view. And if you are very, very good at this, you could even direct your questions so intelligently as to make the other person reach a different conclusion that resembles yours.

2) Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never say “You’re wrong.”

So let’s just say one of your colleagues wants to use Docker Swarm and you want to use Kubernetes. Rather than saying to him he is wrong because look at all these amazing things that Kubernetes can do, try and ask questions that throw some light as to why he feels it is better.

“Why do you think Swarm is better?”

“Is the documentation for swarm better than Kubernetes you think?”

“Are there more people using it?”

“Is it more actively supported and improved?”

When asking all these questions you may either become more receptive to this idea, or perhaps not. The point is that you are forcing the other person to justify themselves, and if they are unable to find proper justifications, then they will more likely be persuaded to your way of thinking.

I myself can be quite an argumentative person if I feel very strongly about a topic that I am familiar with. With people I just meet I argue less, with close friends I argue more, but generally speaking, whether you are comfortable or not with the other person, it’s always good to try and see it from their point of view.

When you say to people they are wrong, even if they are, they are not likely to become your best friends afterwards.

3) If you’re wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically

If you made a mistake, or if you obviously lose an argument, don’t be afraid to say sorry emphatically and own up to your mistake.

People are often shy to admit that they have done wrong, and they will look for ways to get out of it, like blaming others or coming up with excuses. If you are wrong, admit it, say sorry and do something to make up for it.

Saying an empty sorry won’t cut it, you should really aim to atone for what you have done wrong in some way, or at least offer to do so, otherwise people won’t take you seriously.

Admitting you are wrong can be really powerful, people will respect you more because they will be able to see that for you is not about ego or pride, you really care about truth and are a fair person, who doesn’t like and respect that?

In an environment that’s doing DevOps, not being afraid of saying sorry is key. If people are willing to admit guilt, take responsibilities and opening an enquiry, your organisation will eternally get better, otherwise you are just looking for scapegoats, and scapegoats only save face in the short term, it doesn’t solve organisational issues.

4) Begin in a friendly way

This can be particularly difficult, when you are angry, you will be offensive, but often this strategy will backfire, it puts people on the defensive and they are less likely to do anything for you. If on the other hand you start by being friendly and build rapport with the person you are trying to get help from, you are more likely to get your way.

Let’s just say that you are a developer and you want access to a prod environment to look at the logs, but the sysadmin is reluctant to give you due to previous incidents with other developers not acting responsibly. Going up to him and yelling to get it or acting like an arrogant prick is unlikely to encourage the other person to do it for you, and if they did, it would build resentment. But if you approach him and ask how his day is going and assure him that you care about security and that you only need limited access to do a particular thing and then you are happy relinquishing it, then he is more likely to happily give it to you.

5) Start with questions to which the other person will answer yes

This technique is about asking a bunch of questions related with what you are about to request that are hard to refute. For example if you knew someone is partial to windows and you feel strongly you should use Linux, you could begin by asking:

“Doesn’t it suck having to manage licenses?”

“Isn’t it amazing how open source software these days is so stable and well maintained?”

“Wouldn’t you agree with the need for lightweight infrastructure that’s potentially very scalable in clusters?”

The questions above are likely to yield a yes and put the other person in a positive state of mind towards your suggestion.

The author doesn’t say, but from reading another book on negotiation by Chris Voss, I think that starting with a no can also be very powerful in some situations.

6) Let the other person do a great deal of the talking

When people spend time talking about themselves, and you spend time agreeing and creating empathy with them, they are more likely to become close to you and think you are a great guy than if it was the other way around. So if someone you just met likes talking about themselves, let them do it, you are building rapport as they do.

7) Let the other person feel the idea is his or hers

This is probably the most difficult and the most powerful idea in the entire book. If you can have a colleague or an employee believe that the idea of doing something was his or hers, then they are much more likely to enthusiastically do it.

This is challenging not only because you have to manoeuvre in a way that leads the other person to feel they came to that conclusion themselves, but also because we become very protective of our ideas, we don’t like to hand them to others to take credit, so ask yourself always, is it more important to you that the work gets done, or that you can pat yourself on the back?

8) Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.

A good exercise in understanding people is trying to understand how they came up with a conclusion, even if you really disagree with it. Rather than getting into an argument prod with questions that lead you to see how that person developed his ideas.

Also emphasise with that person, make them see you understand and do it candidly, don’t start saying things like “Yeah I see what you mean but…” Because it makes it sounds as if you are being dismissive.

Once the other person feels you really understand them they will instantly become more receptive to whatever you have to say, but first they must see that you understand.

9) Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires

Once you understand the other person’s point of view, how they got to think the way they do, it is easier to sympathise with them, even if you don’t agree. Doing so puts you in sync with him and he will become more amenable to discuss your own ideas.

10) Appeal to the nobler motives

Most people like to do the right thing, so whenever you are getting some resistance to an idea, or you feel you may get resistance to it, you can always start appealing to noble motives. If for example you have a big and difficult project to protect the data of your users, you can always appeal to the fact that your engineers would be protecting users privacy the way they would wish their own privacy was in other companies.

People have a hard time saying no to these kind of requests because doing so implies you have nefarious intent, and even if they didn’t care so much, they wouldn’t still want to be perceived that way.

11) Dramatize your ideas

This goes well on meetings and presentations. If there is an idea you need to convey, make sure you find a way to convey dramatically, or in a way that opens people’s eyes to it.

A very good example of this is what Jamie Oliver did in his talk about food education, or what Al Gore did with a crane to emphasise how much climate is changing due to carbon emissions.

Note that both examples I gave above I didn’t have to research, I remembered off the top of my head because they were so dramatic that they really stuck with me, practice this technique at your meetings, and people will remember.

12) Throw down a challenge.

Challenge your colleagues to find something out, perhaps you could say something like, I haven’t managed to figure this one out, I thought maybe you could with your superior bash skills. Usually when you present this to a colleague he will be more inclined to help just to prove to you (and himself) how smart he is.

Being able to convey your ideas effectively and without arousing resentment is very important if you aim to get things done, here are some ideas from Carnegie on how to do this: It’s sad to say that…