The Importance of Positivity in Negotiations with Josh Doody

Episode Summary

Josh Doody, Owner of Fearless Salary Negotiation, joins Corey on Screaming in the Cloud to discuss how important tonality and communication is, both in salary negotiations and everyday life. Josh describes how important it is to have a positive padding to your communications in order to make the person on the other end of the negotiation feel like a collaborator rather than a combatant. Corey and Josh also describe scenarios where tonality made a huge difference in the outcome, and Josh gives some examples of where and when to be mindful of how you’re coming across in modern communication methods. Josh also reveals how negotiating with companies multiple times allows him to understand their recruiters more than a person who is encountering their negotiation process for the first time.

Episode Show Notes & Transcript

About Josh

Josh is a salary negotiation coach who works with senior software engineers and engineering managers to negotiate job offers with big tech companies. He also wrote Fearless Salary Negotiation: A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting Paid What You're Worth, and recently launched Salary Negotiation Mastery to help folks who aren't able to work with Josh 1-on-1.

Links Referenced:


Announcer: Hello, and welcome to Screaming in the Cloud with your host, Chief Cloud Economist at The Duckbill Group, Corey Quinn. This weekly show features conversations with people doing interesting work in the world of cloud, thoughtful commentary on the state of the technical world, and ridiculous titles for which Corey refuses to apologize. This is Screaming in the Cloud.

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Corey: Welcome to Screaming in the Cloud. I’m Corey Quinn. I’m joined by recurring guest and friend Josh Doody, who among oh, so many things, is the owner of, and basically does exactly what it says on the tin. Josh, great to talk to you again.

Josh: Hey, Corey. Thanks for having me back. I appreciate it and I’m glad to be here.

Corey: So, you are, for those who have not heard me evangelize what you do—which is fine. No one listens to all of the backlog of episodes and whatnot—you are a salary negotiation coach, and you emphasize working with high earners who are negotiating new job offers, which is basically awesome. How did you stumble into this?

Josh: Yeah, a good question. Really, it started as what I would say is a series of interesting career choices that I made, where I started as an engineer. I was pretty quickly bored in engineering and I switched to—I wanted to be customer-facing and do stuff that had impact on the business, so I did that and ended up working for a software company that made HR software that happened to do among other things, compensation planning. And so, I kind of started learning how it worked behind the scenes.

And then over time, I started wising up and negotiating my own job offers. And noticed that wow that kind of worked pretty well, and I decided to write a book about it, a hundred percent just because I like to write stuff. I’ve been writing for 20 years on the internet, and I decided, why not just write a book about this? You know, five or six people will buy it, my mom will love it, I’ll get it out there and it’ll feel really good.

And then people started reading the book and asking me if they could hire me to do the methodology in the book for them. And I said, “Sure.”

Corey: When people try to give you money, say yes.

Josh: Yeah. Okay, you know, whatever, you know? My first person that ever hired me asked me what my rate was, and I didn’t have a rate because I had never considered doing that before. But she was a freelance writer and I said, “Well, whatever your rate is, that’s my rate.” [laugh]. So, that was my first rate that I charged someone.

And yeah, from there just, it took off as more people started hiring me. A number of friends were chirping in my ear that hey, you know, this seems like a really valuable thing that you’re doing and people are coming out of the woodwork to ask you to do it for them. Maybe you should do that thing instead of the other things you’re doing and trying to sell copies of the book and stuff like that. Like, why don’t you just be a salary negotiation coach? That was, I don’t know, like, seven years ago now, and here I am.

Corey: I don’t know if I ever told you this, but back when we met in the fall of 2016, I was trying to figure out what windmill I was going to tilt at before I stumbled upon the idea of AWS billing as being one of them. I thought that writing a book and being a sort of a coach of sorts on how to do job interviews with an emphasis, of course, on salary negotiation, would be a great topic for me because I’ve done it an awful lot. This is a byproduct of getting fired all the time because of my mouth. And then I started talking to you and my reaction was, “Oh, Josh is way better at this than I am. No, I’m going to go find something else instead.”

And now the world is what it is, and honestly, at this point, all the cloud providers really wish you hadn’t been there at that point in time because then they wouldn’t have to deal with the nonsense that I present to them now. But I always had a high opinion of what you do, just because it is in such a sweet spot where if I were to shut this place down and get a quote-unquote, “Real job” somewhere, I would hire you. And it’s not that I intellectually don’t know how to negotiate. Half my consulting now is negotiating large AWS contracts on behalf of AWS customers with AWS. A lot of these things tend to apply and go very hand-in-glove.

But there’s something to be said for having someone who sees this all the time in a consistent ongoing basis, who is able to be dispassionate. Because when you’re coaching someone, it’s not you in the same boat. For you, it’s okay, you want to have a happy customer, obviously, but for your client, it’s suddenly, wow, this is the next stage of my career. This matters. The stakes are infinitely higher for them than they are for you.

And that means you have the luxury of taking a step back and recognizing a bad deal when you see one. There is such value to that I can’t imagine not engaging you or someone like you the next time that I would go about changing jobs. Although these days, it’s probably an acquisition or I finally succumb to a cease and desist. I don’t really know that I’m employable anymore.

Josh: [laugh]. Yeah, I mean, you said a lot of really interesting things there. I think a common theme—you know, to work with me, there’s a short application that people fill out, and very frequently in the application, there are a couple of open-ended questions about you know, how can I help you? What’s your number one concern? That kind of stuff.

And frequently, they’ll say, “Yeah, I’ve negotiated before and I actually did okay, but I want to work with a professional this time,” is the gist of it, for I think reasons that you mentioned. And one of them is, there’s just a difference between negotiating for yourself and feeling all of that pressure and having somebody who can just objectively look at it and say, “No, I think you should ask for this instead.” Or, “No, I don’t think that you should give that information to the recruiter.” And the person instead of feeling, you know, personal subjective pressure can just say, “Well, the objective person that I hired and paid money to help me with this says, ‘don’t do that,’ or ‘do this instead,’ and it’s easier for me to just trust what they’re doing as a professional and let me be a professional at the other things that I’m a professional at.”

And so yeah, I think that’s a lot of—you know, for some people, it’s, “I have no idea how to negotiate. I don’t want to screw this up. Please help me, Josh.” And for some people, it’s, “Yeah, I’ve done this before. I did, okay, but I want you here to help me do this.”

And that includes people who come back and work with me two or three times. They know the methodology. They’ve been through it literally with me, and I’m very open about what we’re doing and why I’m collaborative with my clients. We’re talking about the decisions we make. I will bounce things off of them.

I’ll say, “Here’s what I think we should do. What does your intuition tell you about that? How do you feel about it?” Because it’s important to me because they’re in the game and I need to know what they think. And they’ll come back to me and we’ll do it again. They already know the playbook. And I think that’s because it’s easier to just have somebody who’s a professional there to objectively tell you, “You’re not asking for enough.” Or, “Did you think about asking for this instead?” Or, “Do you really care about that thing?” Stuff like that.

Corey: There is so much value to that, just because it’s a what’s normal in this? Because I’m sure you’ve seen before where—I’m probably—I should put this in more of a question, but I already know the answer because I’ve seen it just from people randomly sending me things out on the internet—of their times for companies say or ask for things that are just absolute clown shoes. It’s, I would barely consider it professional at that. It always feels like there’s value in being able to talk to someone who sees this all the time who can say, “Hold on. That is absolutely not normal. That is not a reasonable question. That is not an expectation that any sensible person is going to have.” Because the failure mode otherwise is you think it’s you.

Josh: Yeah, part of my value prop is, you know, I know how to negotiate with companies. I’m not afraid of them. I’ve negotiated with Fortune 5 companies, come out way ahead—just as you do frequently—and I know the playbook that they’re running. But part of it also is, you know, I have a compendium of recruiter responses. I know what they say, I know what their words mean, and so I can say things like, “Oh, here’s what they actually mean when they ask you for that.”

Or I can say, “That’s weird.” Which, you know, if I’ve done 20 negotiations with this company and all of a sudden a recruiter says something that’s weird, that makes my ears perk up and makes me wonder why. And so, I can dig in on my side and try and figure out what’s going on, see if we tripped some wire that I didn’t see or, you know, something like that. So, that’s part of the value too, is just all the reps that I’ve had, even like you said, I’m sure that you would do a wonderful job negotiating; I’ve talked to you about negotiating online and off, and I know that you know the game, you know how to do it, for your day job but also for compensation. But I probably have more reps negotiating with those companies than you do and therefore my compendium is a little bit deeper, so there might be things that I could recognize that you would not recognize that I could see, right, in the similar way that in your negotiation world that there are things that I certainly would not recognize that you would catch on to.

And I think that can be a very valuable thing. There could be something a recruiter says where I recognize, “Aha. That’s a technical term or that’s a key phrase that we can grab onto. And that is an opportunity to get more.”

Corey: Or, “What are you making now?” It’s like, yes, that’s the industry accepted one free pass that’s screwing the candidate. Yeah—

Josh: Right.

Corey: —let’s not do that.

Josh: Right. And we’re—here’s how to sidestep it and here’s what happens when they ask for it for the fourth time, and here’s what happens when they say the magic words and, you know, all that stuff. So yeah, a lot of it is just getting reps. It started with let me just run my playbook and then as I run the playbook, I get more data every time I do it, and I get to learn what the edge cases look like, and how to spot, you know, weird funky stuff coming from recruiters and that sort of thing.

Corey: One aspect of this that has been, I guess, capturing my imagination since you first talked to me about it, and I am certain I’m going to butcher this into something that sounds insulting and demeaning, which sort of cuts against the entire point. Specifically, the idea of a positive language, or, the term you used was ‘Positively Persuasive.’ What is that? Because it sounds like it’s just someone who’s setting me up, like, waving raw steak in front of a tiger, like, “Please maul me on this.” But there is more to it than that.

Josh: [laugh]. Yeah, so this is something that, to be honest with you, I have done almost intuitively throughout my career, but certainly as a salary negotiation coach. And what it is, is a tendency to use positive, meaning, you know, not negative words. So like, essentially, if you’re familiar at all with improv, which I would say probably half of the people listening probably have some idea what I’m talking about, you take improv classes, and they teach you an exercise called Yes, And. And the reason you do Yes, And is, you know, Corey says something wacky and I could shut it down.

I could say, “That’s not true.” You know, “My hair isn’t red.” And then we’re done improving. But if Corey says, “Josh your hair is red,” even if my hair is not red and I say, “Yes, and… it’s on fire right now,” then we have something going, right? And so, using those positive words—yes, and is a positive way of responding to that—opens up a further dialog and also makes it easier for you to engage with me in that improvisation. In a way, a negotiation is an improvisation; they’re all going to be different.

A business conversation is going to be an improvisation. It’s rare that you’re going to have a conversation where you could write the script completely before the conversation starts. Often there will be an opportunity to improv, to do something different. And so, positively persuasive is essentially my way of thinking about how to use those positive words to accomplish an objective while building rapport with the person that you’re talking to, and leaving the door open for that kind of positive collaboration and improvisation where you can work together with your co-party, with the person that you’re talking to in the negotiation. And so, that’s super abstract, and a concrete example of this would be for example, in a counteroffer email.

Frequently people will, kind of unsolicited, just send me their counteroffer emails. “I’m writing up this email. What do you think?” Somebody on my newsletter or my email list or something. And sometimes they’re okay, and sometimes it’s like, they’re giving an ultimatum and they’re saying, “You promised this when we first talked on the phone and you’re not giving me that. You offered me this and I want what you offered to start with.”

And they’re using all these negative words: “You promised this and didn’t give it to me.” “That’s not what I expected.” Whereas in the counteroffers that I’m writing, it says, “Hey, thanks for the offer.” Starts right away with something that looks like a throwaway line, a platitude, but really what it is is saying, “Hey, we’re on the same team here. We’re collaborating. Thanks for the offer. I appreciate it and I hope you’re having a good week so far.”

And then as it goes on, it says, “Here are the reasons that I’m super valuable to your team. I can’t wait to join this team and, you know, express that value.” And then, “You offered $100,000. I would be more comfortable if we could settle on $115,000.” And so, that’s a counteroffer. In some cases, the counter will be more than 15%. That’s kind of a middle-of-the-road one, but the way I say it is, “I would be more comfortable if,” and so there’s no sort of in-your-face, there’s no ultimatum, there’s no fist pounding on the desk—

Corey: There’s no, “No.” There’s no, “This is not acceptable.” There’s no, “I won’t accept this.” It’s a very soft approach that generally doesn’t put people on edge.

Josh: Puts it—it not only doesn’t put them on edge, but you’re sort of putting your arm around them saying, “Hey, you know, I’d be more comfortable if we could do this.” And they’re like, “Okay, you know, let me see what I can do for you.” So, you’re not making—you’re not turning them into, you know, an enemy combatant; you’re turning them into a collaborator. And now it’s you and then working together to try to make you comfortable so that you can join their team. So, that’s a subtle thing that happens in a counteroffer email and numerous other places.

But that’s the idea is that when you can, you’re choosing positive language so that your requests will be received better, so you build rapport with the person that you’re negotiating with, and so that they perceive you to be a collaborator and not an opponent.

Corey: It sounds hokey, but I’ve also watched it work. It’s weird in that we hear about things like this, we think, “Oh, that wouldn’t work on me at all,” except it the evidence very clearly shows that it does. There’s a reason that some people are considered charismatic and I think this is a large part of it. And I also wonder, I mean, you focus on salary negotiation for high earners, and that, historically at least, as included, you know, a fair few number of software developers and whatnot. And these days, let’s be very clear that communicating what you want, clearly, concisely, and in an understandable way that something or someone can action is such a lost foreign skill for some of these people that they call the entire field ‘prompt engineering’ because just communicate clearly is apparently a microaggression when you ask an engineer to do it without giving it a fancy name. Improved communication really feels like it has been part of a dawning awareness lately that, wait, this is actually important, not just one of those box-checking items that you say so that people don’t spit in your food.

Josh: I think you’re a hundred percent right about that. I mean, it’s interesting is you think about, you know, forms of communication that we have kind of experienced over the past, you know, however many years. But you know, at first, there was no writing, over, you know, thousands of years ago, or whatever, it was just all kind of oral tradition. And then we had writing and it was, like, long-form writing. And then, you know, fast forward to today and it’s like you’re sending a text with two letters and that means something right, or I’m about to head to my friend’s house, and I text him three letters: OMW, right?

It’s like, extremely terse, direct, and to the point. And there is a place for that, I think. I think that efficiency probably has some benefits. I mean, there’s not a lot of reason for me to spend six minutes, you know, writing a text to tell somebody that I’m heading to their house. But on the other hand, I think that sort of concision, that terse writing can also lose a lot in translation, and as we’re using more media that look like Slack, or Discord, or these other chat-based ways of communicating—including email, by the way; I mean, email can be a place where you can be as terse, or I guess, as pleonastic as you’d like—and you get more and more words in there.

And so, I think it’s important to be intentional with those words in contexts where tone and meaning and intent can matter. And a lot of that is in interpersonal communication. And again, it’s about how messages are received and what you’re conveying. I use a lot of—this is [laugh] not directly related—I use a lot of emoji and emoticons and stuff like that and I do that because I’m trying to convey tone in a medium that doesn’t really facilitate it, right?

If I’m talking to you, you and I can see each other’s faces right now, so you know if I’m being sarcastic, or telling a joke, or being very serious. And so, in emails, I’ll put a smiley face. And that’s me saying, “Hey, I’m not laying this on real thick. I’m just letting you know.” Right? So anyway, there are so many media that are available to us now that make it hard to convey tone that I think a lot of it is you’ve got to be intentional with your tone.

Corey: I have worked with more people over the course of my career that have what I’ve taken the call being the asshole-in-email problem, where I have—I think these people are just these absolute jerks. They are completely onerous to deal with and I despise dealing with these people, but then I’ll sit down with them and they are the nicest people and they are incredibly competent and effective. They just have a challenge where whatever they write an email, it sounds like there’s an implicit, “Listen up here dickhead…” that they’re starting the email with.

Josh: [laugh]. Yeah.

Corey: And, “You know what your problem is…” may as well be how they open these things. And it feels like effectively communicating and tone is becoming something of a lost art. I’ve talked to multiple people now who will wind up using Chat-Gippity to construct the bones of a work email and then they’ll just change a sentence or two in the center that actually is the substantive thing that they want to send so it winds up handling all the window-dressing there. Now, I’m wondering what the other side is going to look like when you have someone using Chat-Gippity to paste a work email into it. It’s like, “Okay, strip out the flattery. What are they actually asking from me here?” So, you effectively have, like, an API layer of padding provided by computers, where you could just like, say, the direct thing, but it comes with all the flowerly accouterments that has become expected in business correspondence.

Josh: Yeah. I mean, I love everything that you said there. It’s true. I mean, I’ve worked with people in the past where they would send me an email, or I would email with them frequently and then we were talking in person, I realized that oh, I totally misread what they were saying. Like, I misread what they meant to say, I misread what their outcome, their preferred outcome was, and it’s because the tone is just lost in email.

And I don’t think it was necessarily due to any sort of deficiency on their side. It was on—they have a way of communicating, I have a way of perceiving communications, and they were different, and so the message that I got was different. So, I think a lot of what I’m talking about with positively persuasive is how do I communicate in a way where it is not ambiguous, where it is very clear what I’m saying, what my intent is, what my tone is. And sometimes, like you said, [laugh] use ChatGPT to, like, strip out the flattery. I put the flattery in because I want them to know, like, “Look, I know that you’re a person. You and I are on the same team here. We’re working together.”

So, a lot of my emails will open with, “Hey, hope you’re having a good day.” And it’s like, do I care if they’re having a good day? Yeah, but I don’t need to say that out loud. The reason I’m saying it out loud is I want them—the opposite of everything you just described where I want them to read that email and think, “Okay, Josh isn’t coming at me. Even if he does have critiques of something that I’m doing, or he has a suggestion to improve something, he’s coming at it from the place of, ‘Hey, I hope you’re having a good day so far.’” Whatever I say at the beginning of the email.

And so, that’s filler, a hundred percent, but it’s filler with a purpose that is meant to convey the tone of the email, that is, I’m not coming down on you too hard. I’m trying to convey a message or ask a question and sincerely curious, and can we come together on this to figure out what the solution is or to move forward or to find the next steps or whatever the thing is that we’re trying to do?

Corey: It feels like this is an area that has massive application beyond the obvious negotiation piece of it, which is fundamentally where we sit down and try and convince people to do a thing that we want them to do that is in our interest. But it’s like, okay, well, that’s not just negotiation. That is, on some level, a disturbing number of human interactions that we tend to have. Where do you see this being applied? Is it something that just—that you’re looking at just through a lens of communicating effectively in a salary negotiation, or does it extend beyond that to your worldview?

Josh: I think it can get pretty broad. I mean, as you were describing, I was thinking kind of, as you were talking, like, when else do I use this? And the answer is a lot. But one place that I use this kind of thing a lot is when I’m emailing people who I don’t know, and trying to get them to either just give me something or to allow me more leeway than they otherwise necessarily have to allow. And so for—here, I’ll give you an example, which is, I recently switched homeowners insurance providers because I live in Florida and homeowner’s insurance in Florida is a nightmare.

And so, I changed providers. I thought I had crossed all my t’s and dotted all my I’s, but there was something that fell between the cracks, and that is that the mortgage holder—the bank that holds my mortgage—hadn’t sent the premium check to my new insurance provider. They didn’t get that memo. And it was essentially my responsibility, but I kind of goofed. So, the bank writes me an email and they say, “Hey, we see you changed providers but we don’t have an address for them. We can’t send them a check. Can you give it to me?”

And so, now I’m—there are two parties that I have to kind of keep on my side. One of them is obviously the bank, but also the insurance provider, who might be mad at me because I’m ten days late on this premium or whatever. So, my emails to them are places where I use this where it’s like, I’m basically going to make it so that the person who could get mad at me and cause me some kind of detriment is going to have to do it through a really thick cloud of, “Josh is a nice guy who isn’t trying to be a jerk to anybody here. He’s not trying to pull one over on anybody. There was an honest mistake that was made, he’s just trying to make everything right, and he’s hoping that I can help them.”

And they’re going to have to look at the way that I communicate with them and they’re going to have to push through it and say, “Nope. I’m going to be a jerk. I’m going to follow the letter of the law or I’m going to be as punitive as I can be.” That’s really hard to do when somebody like me is emailing, say, “Hey, listen, I know that we were supposed to get a check out to you last week. I’m working on it right now. I’ve already got everything to the bank. It’s going to be overnighted to you tonight. Is there anything else I could do to make this easy for you on your side?”

And then they’re going to be like, “No, just, you know, as soon as we get it, we’ll let you know.” Whereas if I’m, like, you know, mad at them or I’m mad at somebody or I’m being a jerk in email, then they don’t really have any reason to not be as punitive as they can be to me. And so, that’s just—it’s a little manipulative, I guess, but it’s also the way that I see life, right? Like, I’m like that with everyone, including people who are on the other side of that equation. I’m going to give them grace when I can.

And so, it’s a way of me saying, “Hey, can you extend some grace to me? I think you’re a human being who’s on the other side of this and you have a job to do and I understand that, and if you could be a little bit kind to me, that would be great.” And it works almost every time.

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Corey: There’s value as well, even everyday customer service interactions, if I have a bad customer experience buying something off of Amazon—I know, imagine that.j could that ever happen? Of course not. But in a magical world in which in hypothetically did, I can call up and they answer the phone, I’m probably going to be pretty steamed going into that conversation because this is effort I didn’t want to have to deal with. But stop and think about it for a second. Usually, when I call Amazon for a variety of things, it’s not Andy Jassy who’s answering the phone. Those are atypical moments for me.

Instead, it is generally some poor customer service schmo, who is basically given zero amount of autonomy to speak of in the course of their job, and surprisingly, does not set Amazon’s strategic priorities for them. And if I unload on this person, maybe I make myself feel better, I’ve made someone else’s day actively worse, but even if you want to set aside the story of being a good person—which I don’t suggest people do—but view it in a purely Machiavellian self-serving way, you’re still going to have a better outcome if you inspire people to like you by making yourself likable. Because when you’re a jerk—and I used to work helpdesk; I remember how this works—

Josh: Me, too.

Corey: Suddenly, I will fall back on every policy that I can have, “Oh, we’re not allowed to sit through a reboot. Bye.” As opposed to, “Eh, [unintelligible 00:22:31] say ever not to, but I’m enjoying this and I want to help you out and make sure you get there, so hang out. Why not?” There are ways people can bend the rules in your favor, but if you give them an excuse to fall back on that, they’re not going to go out of their way to help you at all. They’re going to make you go through every bit of procedural red tape they can possibly come up with. And again, you’ve made their day worse and that should not be lost on you. The outcomes are better for everyone when you’re a nice person.

Josh: As you were talking, it’s funny because I remembered, maybe the most frustrated I’ve ever been talking to customer service. This is several years—many years ago, but I had some student loan stuff going on. I don’t even remember specifically what it was, but it had to do with, you know, who was servicing the loan and I’m trying to pay off a loan and I can’t get the right person on the phone and they say, you know, “It’s this other place that owns that holds the loan.” Or, “You need to call this person,” and I’m getting the runaround and I’m not able to do the thing I want to do.

And after I think I’ve been hung up on, like, three times, and I was really steamed. Like you said, I’m legitimately, like, very frustrated. My voice had been cracking a little bit, which is how I know I’m, like, really getting heated is my [laugh] voice will start to crack a little bit. But I said to the person—and I became conscious in that moment of like, okay, I’m very frustrated. I could say something I regret I could really, like, hurt this person that I’m talking to.

As you said, they’re just somebody who’s a customer service representative for this bank or loan servicer, whoever they were. So, I said something like, “Listen, you can’t hear it in the tone of my voice right now, but I need you to know that I’m extremely frustrated and I’m going to [laugh] I’m going to get really upset, and so I’m asking you to help me before I do that before I escalate. I don’t want to talk to your manager, but I’m going to ask you to do that if you don’t help me right now. And you should know that I’m super frustrated. My voice is not betraying that right now, but understand that I am.”

And they snapped in and they were like, “Okay, I get it, I get it,” you know? And right there even as a place where I could have just started shouting at them or whatever it takes, you know, “I want to talk to your manager,” and, “I’m going to escalate,” and all this stuff. And instead, I was like, well, I’m going to give them one last chance, which is, let me just tell them how frustrated I am without using colorful language or mean words. And it worked. It was a subtle thing that actually, I think it got their attention more than anything else. They said, “Oh, this person is really angry. I should actually listen to them.”

Corey: Now, there is a dark side to this as well and that is human nature. I have done experiments on this over the years, most notably on Twitter, back when that was the central place people went to, and when I would say something nice about an AWS service, it got in most cases two likes and maybe a bot would retweet it. Whereas if I say, “This AWS service is a piece of garbage,” and I come up with some reason for it, it went around the internet three times and it was misconstrued, with me saying, “The entirety of AWS is terrible.” Not usually, no. There are some frustrating elements, but yeah, there’s context. It doesn’t fit into a single tweet.

The snarky negativity blows up and responds to—and resonates with something in human nature that the people love spreading that around and engaging with it, whereas the happy positivity does not work that way. On Twitter. I’ve noticed what seems to be the opposite effect on LinkedIn. Snark doesn’t do well over there, but almost saccharine-sweet sincerity does. And I don’t know what this says about various social media channels or human nature or what. All I know is that I’m confused.

Josh: I think you’re right. You know, I mean, as you were talking, I was thinking about clickbait, right? Like, there’s a reason that clickbait is called what it is, and it’s because you read it and you get annoyed or frustrated or angry, and I’m going to hate-read this article right now and I’m going to send it to six friends. There is something in human nature. I mean, you know, we talked—for decades, I’ve heard about how the local news is our news, “If it bleeds, it leads,” in news, right?

We’re not talking about how great the planet is or how things—like, this bad thing happened in New Orleans yesterday and you should be really upset about it, or wherever that place happens to be on that particular day. I do think there is something innate in us that allows us to gravitate towards those kinds of things and I have no idea what it is. But it is interesting, as you said, that there are places where either that’s frowned upon or there’s just a different mode of communication, which tells me that there’s something sort of in the cultural water there that causes people to perceive stuff differently in different kinds of social media environments, right? Twitter definitely is a place where things can go pretty negative. And there are other places that are significantly more negative, right, on the internet, if you want to go, they get really bad, and then there’s places that are really positive.

And it’s interesting how it’s like a maybe people self-select into those places, but also, I think, you know, I think there’s a big difference if you think about, like, who’s using Twitter and why and who’s using LinkedIn and why. I think that people correctly perceive on LinkedIn that for the most part, you’re probably not going to be somebody that’s at the top of a bunch of lists to be hired if your whole thing on LinkedIn is just being negative all the time and doom and gloom and snark and that kind of thing. It’ll be entertaining to some people, but you’re probably not going to get many job offers based on that because people are going to ask, “Do I want to work with this person 24 hours a day?” And they’ll read your posts and say, “No,” whereas at least a saccharine sweet person, everybody knows those people who are like that in real life, and they can be I don’t know, a little bit much, but also can generally be very good people to work with and it’s not difficult to sort of like manage that.

Corey: There’s a lot that can be done just by having people want to help you. It’s weird. Like, I take a look at some of the people that I identify publicly as the nicest in tech—Mark [unintelligible 00:27:48] is a good example. Kelsey Hightower is sort of the canonical example of all of this. These are just genuinely nice people. Ashley Willis, another good example.

There are so many different folks out there who are just beacons of positivity. And I look at that, and it’s like, first, that is admirable. Second, holy hell that is absolutely not me. No one is ever going to say, “That’s what I love about Corey. He’s so uplifting and positive all the time.” You know, I do strive to be a better person and inspire others to be better people, but I’m also willing to spare no quarter for corporate tomfoolery either. Which apparently means a lot of people think you’re a jerk as a result. I’ll take it.

Josh: Yeah, I think it’s, you know, everybody—that’s the nice thing about humans, right, is we’re all different. And there are lots of different types of person—if everybody had the same personality, what a boring place that we would live. And that’s true for, more or less, any human characteristic. If we were all the same and vanilla, I think it would be pretty boring. So, I think that having really positive people out there is great, and having some people who are snarky is great, and having people who have, you know, an ability to just point out absurdity is great. If everyone is pointing out absurdity all the time, then we’re not left with too much.

So, I do think it’s good that those people are out there and they’re very positive. And I think that, you know, even for myself, like, I try to be positive and helpful. Like, we were talking about customer service. I’m like, overly nice to customer service people. I tip more than I should most of the time. And a lot of that is just, you know, that’s a human; they have needs and feelings and this is a way for me to be kind to them.

And I know most people don’t think that way that I do. And I like that. And I think that some people don’t think that way and I think that’s totally fine, too. I think the variety is the spice of life and I think that makes it interesting and useful. I also think that being intentional with those different modes, having them all available to you, and exercising them in different environments can be, like, a level-up, right? It can be a superpower.

You can either be a person with a personality who exercises that same personality all the time, or you can choose to exercise, sort of, different personalities or different ways of communicating or different levels of positivity or negativity in different environments. And I think that makes it even more interesting where you’re able to essentially be a chameleon and find the right mode of communication for the environment or the situation that you’re in, which can enhance that situation for you or for other people that are around you.

Corey: I have to ask, do you find that this is something you do all the time or do you put on your negotiating phrasing the same way that I do when my children accuse me of putting on ‘podcast voice.’

Josh: All the time, definitely not. I am aware of it as a way of communicating that’s available to me and I do consciously use it a lot of the time. But you know, if I’m just sitting around with my buddies on, you know, Wednesday night watching the game, probably not. And a lot of that is because, you know, part of this is, it’s a default to positive because you don’t know sort of who’s on the other end of the line, whereas if you’re communicating with somebody that you’ve communicated with for hundreds of hours, you don’t need all that stuff, you don’t need all the tonal indicators and the padding and all that stuff because you know that person. So, a lot of what I’m describing, even like in a salary negotiation, I’m basically working from the default of I don’t know the counterparty, I don’t know the recruiter, and therefore we’re going to default to positive, and that’s going to essentially, you know, make things smoother.

It’s going to remove friction because there are things that I don’t know, whereas, you know, if I’m communicating with somebody I know really well for 20 years, we don’t need all that stuff. We can—that’s where the shorthand can come in handy. It can be really useful because we already know all of the background there. One place that I’m very conscious of this is, you know, every now and then somebody, with a personal friend or somebody that I know, well, I’ll have, like, a difficult conversation where they’ll say, “Hey, you know, this is something that happened to me recently. Can you help me out?” Or, “This is a difficult thing that I’m going through.”

And that’s a place where I am very conscious of this and it comes in different ways. One of them is using positive words, but one of them is also just, like, exercising extreme sympathy or empathy if it’s appropriate. Which is, again, it’s a conscious decision to say, this isn’t a time to point out, you know, for example, errors, or like, this person just needs someone that they want to talk to and I’m going to listen to them carefully, I’m going to try to give them reassurance that the situation will be resolved eventually, and that kind of thing, but it’s not a time for you know, critique or, you know, negative words or pointing out flaws and that kind of thing. And so, I think that’s also kind of a conscious place that I will exercise it. But to answer your question, no, I don’t do this all the time.

I would say without having ever thought about this before, the less familiar I am with the person or the situation, the more I will default to this, and the more familiar I am with the person or the situation, the less I will default to it. And I will just use more plain, kind of, direct language because that familiarity is there, and it assumes a lot that isn’t there when I don’t know the person well.

Corey: I really want to thank you for taking the time to speak with me about this. Where can people go to learn more?

Josh: Maybe follow me on Twitter [laugh], @joshdoody on Twitter.

Corey: It’s a harder problem these days than it once was.

Josh: Yeah. I really paused there. I am pretty active on LinkedIn these days. And isn’t explicitly about positive language or being positively persuasive, but you’ll see even just reading the articles that I write there that underlying most of what I write is this sort of implicit understanding that positivity is the way to make progress and to get closer to what your goals are. So, @joshdoody on Twitter; joshdoody on LinkedIn, of course, and then

Corey: And we will, of course, put links to all of this in the show notes. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me. I appreciate it.

Josh: Thanks for having me on, Corey. This was a lot of fun. I always like talking to you.

Corey: I do, too. Josh [laugh] Doody, owner of Fearless Salary Negotiation. I’m Cloud Economist Corey Quinn and this is Screaming in the Cloud. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please leave a five-star review on your podcast platform of choice, whereas if you’ve hated this podcast, please leave a five-star review on your podcast platform of choice along with an angry comment that rants itself sick, but also only uses positive language.

Corey: If your AWS bill keeps rising and your blood pressure is doing the same, then you need The Duckbill Group. We help companies fix their AWS bill by making it smaller and less horrifying. The Duckbill Group works for you, not AWS. We tailor recommendations to your business and we get to the point. Visit to get started.
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