Why Carnegie Was Right

You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.

Dale Carnegie

Remember the usual TechComm trouble? Getting other people to acknowledge your presence and importance as a team member? Turns out practically everything that needed to be said was actually said a century ago.

Virtually everyone has heard of Carnegie, many have read the books, and some use the actual recommendations. But why are these recommendations important in the TechComm sphere? By definition, technical communicators work with other people – programmers, quality assurance engineers, business analysts, just to name a few – our beloved SMEs. And it’s often mentioned that technical writers need to be good at writing and editing. They need to be good researchers with sound critical mind. People skills are mentioned, but not as often as we would need. What’s more, it’s rarely stated that you actually need to put some effort into your people interactions and go beyond the bagel-and-cheese technique of interviewing SMEs.

Where do we start? If you condensed the Carnegie’s book to a couple of key ideas, and then had to pick only one of them to get rolling, I’d say that it would be becoming genuinely interested in other people. Genuine interest really means genuine, no hypocrisy or faking in here.

Whether you work in a distributed team or together on-site, you can always start playing the People Detective. That guy across the room, what was his favorite football team again? Oh, your QA has watched the steaming fresh Mad Max: Fury Road, and you’re still thinking whether you should go to the movies? Go ahead and ask them. Discover the people around you and don’t let yourself be locked in your User Guide or whatever-you’re-writing bubble. Fifteen minutes of detective work a day is all it takes to make the process of getting new info a whole lot smoother and your working days a lot more rewarding. A handy tip – don’t underrate the social media; Facebook and Twitter prove invaluable tools in the quest to discovering your teammates.

Jump right on it and don’t let yourself be invisible, start being interested and you’ll become interesting.

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