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I have been working with a very intelligent fellow (my grad-school classmate, we got hired around the same time). We are both very technical (electrical engineering design) and while I have been entirely focusing on being the lead engineer and getting projects done, he has been picking up some of the managerial tasks.

In any case, while he is familiar with most aspects of the projects I have been working on and he is the one who tends to communicate with our customers, some of his behavior has been very annoying to me and I am looking for a way of dealing with it.

For example, a customer comes for a facility visit and is curious about the actual algorithms I used to implement some motor controller schemes. It's just the customer, my coworker, and me in the room. The customer would actually like to understand both the implementation and concept of the design that I put together but my fellow worker starts readily explaining the theoretical concepts without giving me a chance to open my mouth. I like to voice my opinion and would not classify myself as being on the quiet side. Unfortunately, the fellow has that kind of voice and tone that makes my brain literally freeze. Of course, he does know what he is talking about but I think I should be the one explaining the algorithms since I am most familiar with their actual implementation.

I am a little bit lost - he is a nice, chatty, and smart guy and we make a good technical team but this behavior has been getting on my nerves.

For the record, I am very happy where I am and don't want to be the manager. I suspect my teammate does not know himself how much should be said by him or by me. There was no clear strategy defined for that particular meeting.

What would be the best way to tackle this issue?

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    Unfortunately, the fellow has that kind of voice and tone that makes my brain literally freeze. <--- what? I have no idea what this means and unfortunately it seems the key piece to understanding what you are talking about. Also, see this.
    – enderland
    May 13, 2013 at 2:44
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    Some people have a mellow voice that's nice to listen to. This fellow has that kind of authoritative yet excessively annoying voice that I seem not able of filtering out such that I can hear my own thoughts. Btw. good link. XKCD is one of my favorite websites. May 13, 2013 at 4:00
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    Have you spoken to him about it? Have you said something like, Hey friend, would you mind letting me tackle technical questions when we're meeting with customers? If not, that'd probably be a good first step.
    – jmac
    May 13, 2013 at 4:34
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    If he can literally freeze your brain with his voice he is obviously a Dragonborn. You should probably not mess with him.
    – user7444
    May 13, 2013 at 10:16
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    This is not a duplicate of the linked question. There is a big difference between passively (and likely accidentally) causing problems, which is this question, and someone who is more or less a bully. Answers to both will be considerably different.
    – enderland
    May 13, 2013 at 13:09

5 Answers 5

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I think that you need to be brave and outspoken. I know one of my friends similar to you. More importantly, I think that you should be more open with your teammate -- freely sharing your thoughts, etc. May be it is difficult for some people. However, there is no wrong in trying.

Basically I am trying to say is that you should try to see a friend in him along with respecting him as a teammate (professional). You can take him for coffee or have lunch together (more frequently). Try to be more open with him. I think that if he is a nice guy then definitely he will also see a friend in you and you won't face any problems. You both will become a great team. In dealing with customers, you guys discuss your roles and share the future discussions according to the roles. See his progress along with giving importance to yours. Everything will be fine at the end. I know that it is not easy, but be positive.

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First of all: I like Raphaels answer and agree:

Let your friend (I'll call him Bob) do the "opening" and the technical overview and intervene if there is something he misses.

But I understand that this does not satisfy you: Us techies often think that the guy on the other side of the table really wants to hear the technical details. We want to show how much thoughts and work went into our code...

Most of the times customers are -to our disappointment- totally ok with a non technical theoretical overview (although this is not what we want to believe).

Here comes my advice: After your friend is finished you could add something like:

"Thank you Bob. That was the non technical overview over the implementation. If you (customer) want to go deeper into the technical details then I will be pleased to explain the algorithms and implementation in detail. Is there anything you are specially interested in?"

That way you two act as a team. And if your assessments about the customer are right, you will get your chance to go into depth. If the customer is less technically prone and more at a mangement level he will tell you "No thank you" and everybody is happy.

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  • "That was the non technical overview over the implementation." - I would avoid indicating that a coworker's explanation wasn't technical if they were an equal and had the same position as I did. Saying something like that is a great way of burning a bridge, since this individual in this case is interfacing with the customers, they are also likely getting a lot of praise from managers (provided the customers are happy).
    – Donald
    Sep 14, 2022 at 14:19
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When I'm dealing with a person who is constantly talking while I have something to say, I just raise my hand, and the best way to do this is raising your hand in front of that colleague and the customer.
If this does not make him shut up, then you are dealing with an extremely rude colleague.

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1. Walk away.

If you have a tendency to lose your temper when attacked, this will be tough. But responding in anger can only make the situation worse. Tell the person that "I'm not going to be talked to this way. We do need to talk, but I will talk to you about this privately later."

2. Focus on yourself.

When this occurs, focus to stay calm by breathing in through your mouth and out through your nose. Jodi R.R. Smith, an etiquette expert says: "Imagine the words bouncing off of you and rolling onto the floor. Visualize this person as a toddler having an all out tantrum. When they run out of steam, ask: 'Is there anything else?'"

3. Be prepared.

Have something prepared to say back to the person.

  • "My mind wandered for the past couple of minutes. Could you repeat what you said?"
  • "You seem either angry, frustrated or at least disappointed in me. Tell what you'd like me to do differently that's reasonable and fair to both of us, and I'd be happy to do it. If you can't come up with something, it seems to me that you may want to just stay angry at me rather than make it better. That's not acceptable to me."
  • "I can't hear what you're saying when you speak to me in that voice. Please speak in a normal tone of voice so I can start listening."
  • "Do you really believe what you just said?"

4. Consider the source.

What occurred with this person has probably been triggered by something going on in the attacker's life. It can be a result of many different things, including stress from an unpaid mortgage to personal problems to mental illness. And sometimes it happens because the person doesn't know not to do it.

5. Become a better person.

As hard as it may be to accept, any disturbing behavior that you observe in another is a reflection of what you yourself have done - maybe not to the same degree or in the exact same form, but if you examine your own conduct, you will see that you have behaved similarly, perhaps toward family members, perhaps toward yourself.

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Of course, he does know what he is talking about

Plenty of people would kill for a coworker who actually pays attention to and comprehends your ideas to the point they can articulate them to others. In this situation, listen to what he's saying, and if he misses anything or you want to emphasize a particular point, then interrupt and say your piece.

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