How to Overcome the "Engineer's Shy" and Why Should We
Sry for my inaccurate expression — Engineer's Shy. I guess there should be a better expression to describe this scene. As an engineer spending most of my time "talking to computer" by code, I often have difficulty speaking out my ideas, especially in front of a group of people. I knew this was not a personal case as I met quite a few classmates in school and colleagues in the workplace with similar behaviour.
I think it is just a pretty natural thing in the first place. Think this simple logic - when you practiced and used more, you would be more comfortable applying specific skills, therefore showing confidence. The main task for us developers is to understand the problem and write the solution's logic in a language that a certain computing runtime will understand and do the job. You see here. There is no human as an object we will work for, like a salesman or teacher, or helpers we will need to work with, like an assistant for chef or surgeon. I knew there must be teamwork (so the reason I reflected here and thinking for an improvement) in the industry working environment. But we seem to be more "inherently" alone for work.
Our mind and thinking flow would be our closest and best friend when solving problems. I frequently talked to myself when figuring out a solution, with voice or wordless. So I lost quite some time to communicate with people in life. I often felt more anxious when chatting with people than writing my mind down.
Of course, I felt a bit frustrated at first. Why couldn't I express my ideas clearly with the team, like I did think well before the meeting. This extra stress leads to a destructive cycle — I want to speak clearly in meeting -> stressed, so more easily out of thinking flow -> as I cared more, so I feel worse after some failures -> I want to speak more clearly, so more stressed …
So what would be a way for us developers to solve this better? If simple would be much better.
Two steps I tied, and they did help me keep improving over the past two months.
1st - no doubt, practice makes the master
Like coding, there is no shortcut to be good at it without enough practice. The simple line here — practicing talks with a REAL person. English is not my native language, so I used the 1-1 tutor sessions to practice English and build up the speaking flow. After around 20 sessions, I found myself more and more relaxed in the conversation, so I could behave more normally and confidently instead of figuring out what I should say in the next.
2nd - stay with our minds and thoughts
It is kind of amazing for me to suddenly realize that there is no better tool than our mind. Slow down the speaking pace, focus on what you want to say, and give sentences one by one, perhaps slowly but more clearly than we did before. Overthinking is a classical pitfall. We will think about how people will react to us, what I should say and how etc.… No, the first point will always be staying with our minds. Will seems dumb at first as we slowly think and speak out our minds. But this will get improved a lot with practice. And think about many famous people. Like Obama, they actually speak more slowly than most of our daily conversation. But we are more impressed by their talk in a clear way.
I tried to share a short reflection about my or perhaps also your Engineer's Shy. We are not born this way but need our care first, then commit to overcoming it.