Bite back !survival techniques for technical writers             Jang F.M. Graat            IF UnLtd B.V. (NL)  10th meeti...
What’s this talk about ?   Frustration in our jobs     Impossible deadlines     Inadequate equipment     No test environme...
How do people cope ?  Managers...    ... obey their superiors    ... put on the pressure    ... do not accept excuses    ....
How do people cope ?  Developers...    ... couldn’t care less    ... are cool, no matter what    ... don’t need anyone els...
How do people cope ?  Technical writers...    ... run after those with the info    ... are always last to finish    ... say...
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     speak...
Styles of communicating (2)   Aggressive     dominating the conversation     not listening to other’s views     pointing fi...
Some definitions (Webster’s)  as-ser-tive, adj. 1. confidently aggressive or self-  assured; positive; aggressive; dogmatic...
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   respons...
Further Assertive Rights   You have the right ...     ... to offer no excuses or     reasons to justify your behaviour    ...
Further Assertive Rights   You have the right ...     ... to say “I don’t know”     ... to make mistakes - and     be resp...
Further Assertive Rights   You have the right ...     ... to be illogical in making decisions     ... to say “I don’t unde...
Assertive in Practice
Persistence  Technique: “broken record”    don’t get side-tracked    keep repeating a phrase,    but don’t get angry or lo...
Social communication  Establish an equal relationship    especially with the developers  Pick up “free information”    stu...
Manipulative criticism   Requesting a justification     “It is wrong to act like that”     “This is a proven bad habit.”   ...
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 ...
Negative assertion   Assertively accept a negative or action     “You’re right. That was a dumb thing to do.”   Takes away...
Negative inquiry   Actively prompt more (specific) criticism     NOT: “What makes you think this is bad ?”     “I don’t und...
Closing remarks
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 fee...
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Bite back - Survival Techniques for Technical Authors

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This was a fun presentation to give to an audience of tech writers, back in 2003. As a Philosopher and Psychologist, I was able to give people some real insights in their usual personalities and communication styles - and show them some non-aggressive methods to cope with more extravert, more aggressive bosses and co-workers.

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Bite back - Survival Techniques for Technical Authors

  1. 1. 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
  2. 2. 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
  3. 3. 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
  4. 4. 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”
  5. 5. 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
  6. 6. We are technical listeners Communication... ... is our trade ... is our main talent ... is our biggest trap
  7. 7. Communicative behaviour Anne-Lies Hustings Sub-Assertive Aggressive Assertive
  8. 8. 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
  9. 9. 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
  10. 10. 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.
  11. 11. Assertive in Theory
  12. 12. Declaration of Assertive Rights Manuel J. Smith, Ph.D. ISBN 0-553-26390-0
  13. 13. 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.
  14. 14. 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
  15. 15. 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
  16. 16. 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”
  17. 17. Assertive in Practice
  18. 18. 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
  19. 19. 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
  20. 20. 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”
  21. 21. Coping with manipulation “Fogging” Negative assertion Negative inquiry
  22. 22. 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
  23. 23. 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
  24. 24. 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
  25. 25. Closing remarks
  26. 26. 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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