About the talk
RailsConf 2019 - Plays Well with Others: How to Stop Being a Jerk Today by Jesse Belanger
Society acts as though jerks are incapable of changing their bad behavior, as though somebody called .freeze on them. We devise all kinds of strategies for avoiding or placating them, even at the expense of others' happiness.
What if it didn't have to be that way?
This talk approaches jerks as the mutable objects all people are. If you think you might be a jerk, or if you're looking for a new approach to the jerks in your life, this talk is for you! We'll cover what makes a jerk and what the positive alternative looks like. You'll leave with a set of practical ways to defuse negative urges, hold yourself accountable, and transform your behavior in a variety of situations, such as meetings, disagreements, or when things go wrong.
I hate everybody. Thanks for coming out and really excited to be here. This is my first conference talk ever. So I'm up here on this big stage, twice my height. Thank you really excited to be talking about this because I feel like most of the time conversation about jerks at work revolve around what people who are coping with other people's behavior can do to make it better. I think I cut the crap, you know, everybody can change their behavior. And so it's time for new people to take responsibility for their actions. So it that you know, who am I high and Jesse? I'm a software engineer at a
company called ezcater Boston. We have a pretty cool no assholes policies, which basically means that we value people's ability to work on the team as much if not more so than their ability to be a good engineer destination largest online catering Marketplace, but I do a lot of this which is eating about modeling. Dogs with everybody seems to do that here. Give her a chance to go up in the big screen. I also have a confession. I've been a jerk. Sometimes I still am a jerk and this is something I work on everyday in some capacity.
So what that what does it mean to be a jerk? I'm sure we all have some idea and Mind of a person may be an action that we think of me hear that word. Well. When you're very unlikely to be a jerk in a vacuum by yourself, it's about the way that your behaviors impact the people around you. I think that definition isn't quite strong enough. So I love this definition of an asshole did academic definition by professor at Stanford Robert Sutton and he says that an asshole to somebody who is behaviors are demeaning.
Not only the people not like them but they feel afraid they feel undervalued or not valued at all. It's very hard to come to the team and contribute when you're living in the shadow. I also want to point out that acts like a jerk or an ass-whole at a specific moment in time. We all do it. Sometimes you slip up sometimes a little cranky you do something that maybe you wish you hadn't but being a jerk is about a pattern of behavior over time the moving average of your behaviors, you know, maybe on Monday you snap at somebody people largely for that because of the time, you know,
you're a nice person. But if it happens again on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday Friday, it starts the damage of relationships and then people start to think of you as being So with that let's have our working definition of a jerk be people his patterns of behavior bring down the energy confidence and morale of those around them. The pattern what? What are those look like in a we probably all have ideas of things the jirks do from interrupting yelling screaming cursing insulting, maybe even more than I've listed.
I would challenge you to think of both the ones that you really dislike most in others and maybe the ones that you're guilty of yourselves. And so all of those are Auntie patterns, right? They're optional reactions. They are bad solutions to problems. So I want to propose a new pattern because this talk isn't really about shaming you are making anybody feel bad for what they have done. It's about embracing new things that you get to do. How many people are part of the arrange acts in a skirt pattern for unit test? Yeah, pretty good one right you set up some State before
you execute your expectations afterward. So in that mold proposing the introspect interaction iterator pattern for social behaviors before during and after. Eye Blind if you will help you frame your interactions to be a little bit better so controls back, what does that mean? I have a good that means I'm feeling valued by you need you to a positive outcome really help you out. There is two emotions in your motives. Are you feeling angry sad happy place emotional volatility.
Are you feeling pretty calm and then your motives are you going to do it because you want to help out or you going to do it because you want to make them feel bad about something. They just did not understand where you're coming from. Maybe just stopped that so well. After you determine whether or not you should act face and how you're feeling. They're going to want to spend your ego. This is hard. This is the really hard part like Sam got in the intro. Everybody's hero their
own story on life their own internal monologue the stepping Beyond yourself. It's a real struggle. But when you do that you make space for somebody else to matter to you which makes a lot of difference in your interactive conversation through for their with their be interested in them being there and talking to them interacting with them. It's not your kind of set yourself up to go into an interaction, you know, they can trust another person and knowing how you're feeling. We can track the number one thing there is to active listen or just listen in general but active listening in
particular is a technique for listening really, well. We are not only hearing but you are making sure you understand what people are saying such that you could you repeat it back to them. They're asking clarifying questions if you don't understand and making sure that you know, you're not just passively being there. Skip collaborative. I don't know if you guys have this experience. But sometimes I'll have a conversation with somebody and I'm just pushing my own agenda and they're pushing their own agenda and we never really come to any synthesis. We never come to any other conclusion.
It was just we are both blowing hot air in each other and let me go away that's not really constructive worst that can make somebody feel like they're being used. So you really want to work with the person you're talking to to come to some kind of use for that time. And lastly check out your check your execution. I have a dog sometimes I say mean things to my dog in a really nice voice. I don't know if any of you people with dogs do that. You can't do that with people. You can't say something mean in a nice voice and you can't say
something nice and I mean voice tone and content matter to humans. Even directed you hopefully been sounded like you value that person's time. You're making an effort to really attract them well, and I'll get it right. This is especially useful. If you are working on some particular element of your behavior. This is where you self reflect immediately going to come back to think about how that conversation might have felt it to the other person made for you as well. But the other person
think about if you're trying to work on being less aggressive think about Better or Worse, we're often not the best judges of our own behavior. That's worse listing fee that comes in you can ask and you can say I'm working at something less. How do you think I did that give somebody sort of a prompt. Understand? How does she get feedback to you and then also makes them I like your tender acceptance at the caveat there is if you shoot the messenger for it, you can't rely on them to ever
give you feedback ever again because they are probably not going to trust that. They won't get there if they give you a hard truth. And the last bit is that there's room to improve if somebody says I appreciate your effort, but you still didn't do that great of a job and make a note to do a little bit better than next time. If somebody says wow, that was really hurtful really uncool. That's the time to own make an apology super hard. Everybody hates apologizing. There are some good framework for an apology. The four-part apology
is a pretty good for the bun to look at but don't be afraid of it. Everybody makes mistakes. Pretty much most of us are learning app. And I want to dive into practice, you know, this framework can working all kind of situation, but it's a little bit abstract. So, what does that look like in some of our daily occurrences? No meetings disagreements code review and when things go wrong. I'm also really great place. If you're working on some kind of social behavior. They want improve on it really good ones just lay some structure
around because they often just have a calendar event Hugo you're done very clean. Transitions in and out. It's a pretty interesting facts that beer go to Every meeting understanding what the point of the meeting is. And what your role in a meeting is the point of the meetings. They can actually just held your whole for our meetings that have no point. Maybe the person who put the meeting in your calendar or do we need to have this but it's a it's a Team Planning meeting, you know your role there is as a team member not part of the dictator of all the people do expectations
for how you should be participating there. The other thing you want to do is if you're working on something that you can manifest pretty badly in meetings like in Trump doing for monopolizing your time. Do that and understand like meetings are challenging place for me. I just to be aware of you know, what you might do. I've worked on this in the past and admittedly some time to talk a little bit too much. I always remind myself in some other people from space to talk to going into the interaction that make room for all voices. Not
just, you know, even being quiet but inviting other voices the specially those of marginalized people in the earlier career engineers in a room may be people who are not engineers in the room the women in the room with collar on the road. We've been having a lot of conversations on my team lately about just these things about making sure that you know that the quality of ideas are generated is so much better when everybody in that room is feeling like they can contribute so you can both make a space for that and actively invited On top of that you want to listen to what other
people are saying? I'll just make the space but he wrote back to the active listening. We talked about you want to hear it you want to build on it and not just somebody says something and I you say your thing. I saw disjointed but really coming to some kind of synthesis together to make that meeting feel like a really fun problem solving process together. And then in our generator. When you get out of meeting somebody how did it feel to if your team is going to having a contentious or cold or hostile meeting? Maybe because of how you are with someone else's actions. If
you do a great job for managing a listening process, you'll notice a difference in people be able to say wow, that did not feel like an awful terrible meeting something new that made it better to say you brought a little quicker and you just sat down every single time you interrupted or you used there's a couple online some timers for who's speaking in the room. Now, let's go to disagreements. These are really challenging because they've got that just in time bit. The interest except here is
about understanding that initial reaction when somebody challenges. Do you what do you want to do? Are you reactive volatile? Like you're going to want to yell at them for lash out. They're going to shut down understanding that and giving yourself the time to process that reaction and not do anything with it until you're going to be able to do something constructive is what makes a difference here remind yourself that it's okay to be wrong. I feel like a lot of disagreements that we just dig in because we don't want to be wrong. I don't know if you've ever argue from point that you
knew was wrong just because you made it and you did it wrong. I've done it before and it's all reactions. Probably they think that because they're dumb The beyond that and thanks really why might they think that that gives you an advantage when you come and I'll be going to be in traction number one thing identify what it is that you're arguing about and what you're valuing is you're trying to solve a particular problem Maritime people get all the way through this agreement only to find out that they were arguing about to completely separate things. So at least you
had fun that you could be having a productive. how to get there ask lots of questions and listen to the answers no don't just pay lip service asking but she what they're saying internalize it respond to agree on this is kind of a Almost a manipulation tactic trick or if you find something to agree on and it makes it so much easier for the other person come around to your way of thinking, because now you're not really enemies. They can't register. You are probably partners coming to a solution. And then that really gets the
book last bit to end this build a solution together. Don't just about ready as off and go your separate ways really try to solve it together. But she can't do that in about to lose your cool and respect on that after so, you know, what I got to do to not do that. And if you leave a disagreement feeling like you can't commit whatever, you know, you came to buy the end of that you got to open a backup. There's just no room to be no stay sure and then go off and do your own thing undermine a decision if we can people trust in you don't be afraid to
and no let cooler heads rain and go back until you know, I really don't like waking up to a different way. Gold review. I'm I sure hope everybody's doing code review. But if you're not I guess this wouldn't apply to you but also do go to view the intro to understand what your team does code review for is it to just make sure that the code is being merged then it's going to break everything. Is it for best practices for style understand that so you can do both
what kind of feedback to give and receive so they are not ending up, you know getting into a fight over 900. You told me it's like really this was just going to work if your team only cares about. Mergens bugs. Remember the code to do the place for learning. Yeah, that's super important. If nobody made any mistakes at all whatsoever in their code. We were just all for push the master and be totally fine. It wouldn't be scary. It would be great. I thought when you're doing the code review as the reviewer, you're going to want to help him to make it look better but
don't focus on making it the code. You would have written your I put my headphones in the password. Somebody was leaving reviews and it was taking everything just to be the exact way that they would have wanted. Without necessarily really making any better or worse or fixing one and half a dozen of the other respectable time of your team to just not squabble over things that don't necessarily the matter in the bigger picture and ask questions rather than demanding or are giving commands on my team as well even instead of
saying this is Rob do this will say what are your thoughts on and I give somebody the room to come to your suggestion with a little bit more social lubricant. Now, it's not know. I have no choice but it's giving me a choice. I will take it that was a little trick and then when you're receiving the review just remember that good suggestions for gift to you. If somebody didn't give that maybe you weren't the bug maybe would have learned something like it's totally okay for somebody to know something you didn't. Empowerment that you know, if
somebody didn't follow suggestions of asking a question rather than giving the command just don't read between the lines. They're calling you dumb or anything. It's just try to add a move on a little bit from that. It doesn't work in your feeling at the end of reading review for having left review that there's something kind of weird going on reach out to take a conversation from text into a video chat or real life often times. You will expedite the process of resolving issues. But you also I'm going to build that trust and pixie.
How late many of you read a couple years ago or maybe last year that thread on Reddit about the intern who won their first day setting up their Dev environment deleted the whole production database of whatever company they were at you fired. What can I do to fix it? And everybody was pretty much like they're all a bunch of assholes. So here, you know, we're going to talk about what those people should have done, which is number one breed like Boston Celtics catering.
So I know that you know lives around being altered if something goes wrong. Find that ability to take her that doesn't matter so much. I take a minute to breathe firemen. Don't run into building screaming their heads off my God, you know, there's a fire cooler heads rain. And I don't remember that mistakes are natural and inevitable. No one's perfect. Maximum possible the world would be better besides a completely different but it's not those problems. You're cool.
I'm spiraling out of control just find why did this happen what we need to do to fix it. What can we learn for next time just be about it, And then you want to find a solution to solve it as quickly as possible but not a scapegoat. Even if you need to find out who caused the problem to solve it. If you know it is not worth blaming them because everybody doesn't make mistakes and so after everything is wrapped up. You want identify the lessons learned that helps it make make it a lot easier to deal with
something haven't gone wrong because now there's a silver lining you say we never would have learned this if I hadn't gone down and identify what kind of train yourself to not panic the next time something bad happens because you know, we saw the before we learn something every time you make us better and make sure you're able to move on. There's no room to know be thinking about it and dwelling on it days weeks months in the future that bring everybody down to always wear to be beating the drum for 4 past mistakes or just
grieving over them and you especially don't want to let it hang over someone had especially if that person is an intern who made a mistake it really damages people's ability to Value themselves, if you're constantly hanging their failures over them. I've taken our site down a couple of times and no one reminds me of it except for myself and now I can kind of laugh about it. And that's a healthy attitude to have about mistakes because they happen. speaking of moving on We're ready to begin that we seen examples, but how do you actually get this started?
First step is to find your direction and it ended up with self-awareness which is hard knowing yourself is hard having an honest with yourself is pretty hard, but that's what's going to let you know. So what you up to focus on and where you need to hold your behaviors and which is an only come from a genuine desire to change. If you don't really want to change it just talked to happen to the thing always goes you can't change somebody only they can change themselves. That's true for you. Managers can help people with this
you can let people know what they are doing to hurt the team what is making people feel unloved unvalued help them identify those behaviors and you can create a culture where being a jerk doesn't lead to success. I think we end up with so many jerks in workplaces because teams either in O directly quit being a jerk for the ability to be six. Or don't punish it not for lack of a better word, especially something that managers and senior people on teams can do to sort of Model Behavior of cure curious how
people who succeed treating those around them, you know to to make clear that that's just not going to win you anything. And then you're going to have a pic of a hater just pick one and replace it with a new have it maybe it's interrupting and you just want to know not do it. The first thing is to review it regularly. Keep it top of mine. If you forget about it. You won't change to be the beginning of the week and then a recap of the week and be everyday could be every time you go into a certain scenarios such as a meeting
you put 5 minutes on your calendar to review your intention and then 5 minutes after you just want to keep it in top of Mind Atlantic identified. Hook's Bbq sore triggers help. You remember when to neither either do or not to do a behavior such as no schedule a calendar or keeping a clicker in your pocket just to train yourself every time you can drop somebody to keep my truck around that whatever works for you. Whatever is going to help you undress whatever it is that you're particularly working on. And lastly
track it and assess your progress. This is both so you can see you know, you're so I did so, you know how you're doing. But so you can celebrate it when you get better so you can see, you know, maybe you're keeping a journal or in a note taking app last month. You know, I was speaking 90% of the meeting and everybody really hated it, but now I share the air time so well, people are very happy to look what I've done. That's a positive feedback cycle. It keeps you coming back for more of this is a very challenging self-improvement. And I get help if you need it. Like there's no
shame in getting help. You can ask your peers for feedback and up to give them to give you a legend of ribs. When you're doing something that you're trying not to do to help you and I'll figure out new strategies your manager a good manager should be able to help you with this part of their job. If you feel like you know, your teammates reminder, there's not somebody you can trust for somebody that you could take a feedback from without getting aggressive about it, or we can do whatever a lot of costume you there. You can get
accountabilibuddy in a friend. Another teammate anybody have a good rapport with you trust to tell it to you straight or who if you will react with amount of volatility who can take it. No, no no later to apologize. That's the last we keep up the good work. This means a lot of different things. It means once you done the first thing you do go back to the second thing or the third thing or just keep finding ways that you can make your ears feel even more in a valued and respected by you it only
has unlimited upside. If you know Val yourself. Sometimes just thinking about everybody else values themselves. People live other people so much more when they feel like that person. How to put certain people love it when you love them. Stay vigilant right as the time goes on because the other way they're going to keep up the good work risk factors will change your power dynamics will change say, you know, like circumstances changed a lot more tired and cranky. So be aware of that. So you get
promoted now you have a lot more confidence than I've ever seen you in during the team now that you're that much more confident or people's perceptions of you might change their behavior that was once for benign or accepted now seems a little bit more. Delete. I'm near the team. And then you're going to want to also maybe try this at home. This is something I'm currently working on. I feel like sometimes a lot nicer at the office. When I am at home. You can totally do this at home and your and lastly
teacher to somebody else. This is how we make our our culture or engineering culture has that much less drunk prone. We help those around us who might be struggling to be a little bit nicer than some tools and techniques to not be as much of a jerk like I'm doing right now. It's with that. I would just like to thank you all for coming out. It's been great having you for your time and it was just a couple of resources all I'll put up on the slide, but feel free to come up and ask me any questions or chatter. I guess I'm
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