The ingredients of an interaction
"We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it.
Through this work we have come to value:
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools..."
from The Agile Manifesto
Each interaction is the prelude to the next. Each interaction is colored by past experiences (direct and indirect).
Our interactions can set up a positive spiral of increasing trust or a negative spiral of decreasing trust and defensiveness.
Because our interactions effect our ability to work effectively and collaboratively, it's worth investing some time in learning about interactions.
All interactions have two main parts:
External: That which is articulated verbally and shown in non-verbal ways.
Internal: A covert, internal dialogue.
An interaction starts with sensory input -- we hear words, tone, inflection and see facial expression, gestures, posture.
Based on what we see and hear (filtered, of course) we make an interpretation. Our interpretation is based on our past experiences, education, culture, etc. Our interpretation isn't fact. We make it up. Most of the time we're close enough and things proceed smoothly.
Interpretation sparks a feeling.
Then our rules for commenting kick in -- things like "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all" or "Don't confront authority."
After all that (which happens in a split second), a response pops out.
Our response becomes the other persons sensory input.
Most interactions work well enough--maybe 95%. The other 5% can cost hours or even days of tangled up communication and damaged relationships.
When interactions go awry, stop the negative spiral by separating observation and sensory input from interpretation.
Review your sensory input: What did you see and hear? (Just the facts, ma'am.)
Generate at least 3 possible interpretations of the facts, and test these as hypotheses. When you can't test a hypothesis,use the most generous possible interpretation as a default.
This is one of the most important things I've ever learned. Changed my life.
I don't do this with every interaction, but when my first interpretation is decidedly not generous, it's a cue to look for other possibilities.