Lopsided relationships

Since deciding that I wanted to change careers to become a full-time developer, I have started listening to a number of podcasts. Some of my favorites are Under the Radar, the spiritual successor to my previous favorite Developing Perspective, Core Intuition, and Release Notes. There are many others that I have enjoyed off and on, including the Accidental Tech Podcast and The Talk Show, as well as some new ones I am loving, such as Runtime and Canvas. I am not sure how many hours of podcasts I have listened to, but I know that Overcast has saved me an extra 46 hours from Smart Speed alone, if that tells you anything.

One of the interesting things about listening to podcasts is that you spend hours and hours listening to someone share their thoughts and feelings on issues that are important in your life. You start to feel as if you know these people from having spent so much time with them. And since most friendships come from spending time together, you begin to feel as if you are friends.

But there is a problem.

The person on the other end of this relationship does not know you at all. They have no idea that they have spent countless hours with you. From their perspective, there is no relationship.

I had an experience recently where I was on the other end of this phenomenon. In addition to my day job as an iOS developer, I work at DevMountain, a coding bootcamp here in Utah, teaching iOS development. Many of the lessons that I have given were recorded, and current students watch those recordings as part of their curriculum. Over the past few weeks, I have had a few students come up and talk to me. They both said something to the effect of, “I feel like I know you from watching all your videos.” I had to chuckle when I realized that I had an lopsided relationship with these students.

My mind was taken back to WWDC 2015, when I had the chance to meet _David Smith, the man behind Developing Perspective. We got to chat for just a minute, and I told him how much his podcast and his willingness to share what he has learned have helped me in my own development career. It was a highlight of the conference for me.

Meeting David Smith Caleb Hicks, David Smith, Joshua Howland, and me

From these difference experiences, and from talking with other people, I have some thoughts about how to handle meeting someone with whom you are in one of these lopsided relationships. If you are on the side that believes that you are friends, start with a brief statement explaining how you know the other person. That can go a long way to alleviate an otherwise awkward encounter. If you are on the oblivious side, do your best to make the other person feel comfortable. Recognize that the person who is meeting you feels vulnerable and probably a little intimidated. If you are both introverted developers, chances are neither of you are particularly good at interpersonal interactions, so you will both be awkward together, and that is ok.

However these relationships form, they can turn into real, meaningful relationships with just a little effort. Almost everyone who produces work that you admire is just a normal, friendly person and would appreciate you saying a kind word letting them know what you appreciate about them. Next time you see someone in a lopsided relationship with you, go up and introduce yourself!

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