Michał Muzyczka
Michał Muzyczka's Blog

Michał Muzyczka's Blog

Should you have empathy as a software developer?

Should you have empathy as a software developer?

Michał Muzyczka's photo
Michał Muzyczka
·Nov 15, 2021·

3 min read

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Empathy from Wikipedia

is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, that is, the capacity to place oneself in another's position.

I've heard several times that some people didn't become programmers to talk to people. But the reality is that we interact with other people a lot every day. We also spend 1/3 of the day (and even more if you don't include sleep) at work, so I think we should put emphasis on feeling good mentally. I think empathy can be very helpful in many ways in this.

Such a mundane example would be how we write and document code. If we empathize with others (or ourselves from the future) we can more easily see that sometimes a line of commentary won't hurt. Or that the name of the commit could be a bit more descriptive of what we changed. Most of the time I'm reading the code, not writing it, so it's all the better to write with an eye to who will be reading us in the future.

Then there is a code review. We all know that on the one hand, we want someone to give us feedback on our code so we don't make the same mistakes over and over again. On the other hand, we know that it always stings our ego to some degree. Therefore, it is important to feel for the other person and, for example, skip the biting, personal comments. Also, it's better - as opposed to praising - to give negative feedback (in general, not only to the code) in private, not in front of everyone (e.g. on a group chat).

Similarly, when we see that someone is not coping with a task or is having a bad time - it's sometimes nice to take the initiative and ask if we can help. Most of the time people are good, and they will either return the favor or at least not take advantage of us.

It can also affect how we are perceived by our superiors. For example, before we start to panic or make negative comments about something new, it is good to think about how a project manager who is responsible for a project might feel when suddenly gets bad news.

Apart from the advantages in professional life, I think that the most benefits from developing empathy will be observed in private life. That's where we have the most relationships, both less and more complicated ones. Thanks to empathizing with the other person, it may be easier for us to be understood and to avoid conflicts.

To sum up, I think that empathy is something that some people sometimes lack and that makes the workplace simply better. I also think that because of psychological differences, it's something that makes average female programmers better when it comes to communication than average men programmers.

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