People Skills Tips for Technical Professionals

My strong technical background (Mathematics) and my natural intuition about people gives me a special insight into the people skills (also known as soft skills or interpersonal skills) of technical professionals. It is a myth that technical professionals are incapable of highly social interaction. 

As with any population, there is a range of abilities which can depend on interest level. Many technical professionals seem to enjoy the technical/occupational skills over the people skills. Yet I see in them a wealth of knowledge and a very deep commitment to helping others.

So this post is dedicated to you, technical professionals and to your people skills, so that all can benefit from your intelligence, knowledge, and deep commitment to help others.

People Skills Tips for Techies By:@J#@

People Skills Tips



#1 Collaborate vs. Control Instead of speaking through your entire thought and assuming people will understand you when you have completed it, stop along the way and welcome input, collaboration, and discussion. Else you risk alienating people who are not technical in nature.

#2 Dedication vs. Arrogance In any profession, you can choose to share your dedication to your profession with others. This choice creates powerful people skills and influence for your profession. Conversely, you can choose to look down on those who do not have your knowledge. This choice alienates people and reduces your influence. Dedication or arrogance — it’s your choice.

#3 Feelings Lead to Facts Most technical professionals are comfortable with facts and many are uncomfortable with feelings. Non-technical people are loaded with facts that you need in order to apply your knowledge to their business or scientific needs. In order to discover those critical facts, listen to feelings and then ask questions. Otherwise your discomfort and impatience with feelings, will come across as insensitive and possibly cruel. Bonus tip: To discover what they truly want, try a simple empathetic phrase: This can be … important, scary, frustrating … for you. People open up when they feel empathy, validation, and support.

#4 Willingness to Learn is NOT Weakness. My sister is a Ph.D. research scientist. A very bright creative problem solver with decent people skills. She is the first person I call when I have a scientific or medical question and she is glad to help. Yet when she faces a new situation about dealing with people in difficult moments, she calls me. Her willingness to learn and improve her people skills is NOT a weakness. Rather, people skills have increased her influence not lessened it.


What people skills tips would you like to add to this list? The sky’s the limit! Please share your experience in the comment field below.

From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™

©2011 Kate Nasser CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. If you want to re-post or republish the content of this post, please email info@katenasser.com Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.


Kate Nasser, Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on leading change, customer service, customer experience, and teamwork. She turns interaction obstacles into business success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results. See footage on this site.

7 Responses to “People Skills Tips for Technical Professionals”

  1. Elliot Ross says:

    Beautifully articulated Kate, and I expect that I will have to reference this work dedicated to my audience of senior executives that have to manage technical staff!

    I would add one more to your excellent list;

    Teaching vs. Doing

    As the old saying states; Give a man a fish, he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he eats forever.

    Individuals with technical backgrounds can be impatient. They may feel it easier to just ‘do it themselves’ rather than trying to explain, explore, or instruct.

    And that tendency can lead others to feel frustrated, undervalued or angry. All of which leave negative perceptions on the technical experts skills or character.

    I think one very short comment made on twitter sums it best, two elderly ladies were overheard in a coffee shop speaking about technical customer service;

    Quote: Over heard ladies in 80?s: “See that’s the difference ‘tween technicians who can, ‘do do do do do’ it like that and teachers who show you.”

    (that quote is from here: http://elliotross.wordpress.com/2010/06/07/teaching-vs-doing/)

    Regards,

    Elliot

  2. jrandom42 says:

    “It is a myth that technical professionals are incapable of highly social interaction.”
    Except for those of us on the Asperger-Autism continiuum. After decades of coaching, seminars, classes, counseling, therapy and drugs, my people skills are still mediocre at best. Most social interaction for me, is like staggering around drunkenly through a minefield while blindfolded. At best, I find myself exhausted attempting to extend my awareness to other people, only to find that I’m only intermittenly succssful.
    I have little innate awareness of body language, subtle clues, or conventional norms for social interaction. So any kind of social interaction will require a great deal of concious effort and concentration on my part.
    As such, I only have my technical skills and experience to rely on. Guess I’m totally screwed.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Mediocre people skills are a great accomplishment given your Asperger-Autism continuum. If your energy allows you to simply tell someone how committed you are to solving their “technical” issue and helping them — then your mediocre people skills become less of an issue for them and for you. You might try something like: “I am very committed to helping you (or solving your technical problem…) even though people skills are a struggle for me. I care very much about what you need …”

      As long as your mediocre people skills don’t drive you to actually insult someone with standard identifiable insults, then you aren’t as you say screwed. Letting people know that you do care about them and what they need removes the major issue about mediocre to poor people skills. That issue is that most people subconsciously think that mediocre to poor people skills are a reflection of what you think about them. So when you at least verbalize that you do care, it helps smooth things over.

      Best wishes and good luck,
      Kate

  3. jrandom42 says:

    And it works, until you get sucked into office politics, or personality conflicts or are forced to choose sides and so on. Ugly, messy, and a definite career minefield.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      J – Great people skills do not trap you. They empower you to handle the very situations you describe — office politics, personality conflicts etc…

  4. Yuvarajah says:

    Kate,
    It’s really bone crushing trying to get through Techies on the need to master people skills and related conceptual skills like problem solving.
    For six years, as HR, I have drummed into my Engineer CEO that if he does not lead the cultural transformation, people are never going to effect lasting change to workplace. I have failed to convince the Management to shed the command and control style because . the company thrives on the arrogance of its monopoly and growth, But the signs are becoming apparent the santa claus days are numbered. Turnover, including yours truly is seeping in. Without talent succession they are doomed and their only strategy for that is “monetary offer” . Despite my calls, they just fall deaf to what the new generations look for.
    I guess, sometimes, the best way to help arrogance and egos is to let them fall hard!.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Sad but true Yuva. The good news is there are many technical organizations that have and are embracing change and working in new ways with outstanding people skills. I wish you the very best and continued success in your next position. Moreover, I welcome your connection and of course tap me for any info or workshops or webinars to help you breed the best people skills in all your teams.
      Kate (The People-Skills Coach!)

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