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We in the infosec community have a terrible habit. We are so overwhelmed with all the “events” that we have to monitor that we forget the most important event might be standing at our desk at any time.

Most folks still think of the infosec professional as the introverted “geek” who cannot look another human in the eye and is more comfortable with a machine than with another person. Sadly, the media does nothing to dispel this portrayal of the infosec community.

How many more images of the hooded hacker do we need to see? Now that we have the public’s attention, how can we correct these perceptions in our human interactions?

When someone comes to you with a question or a problem, do you still stare at your screen while having the conversation, busy typing as you talk and partially listen? This bad habit must be broken.

Here is a tip to help break us of the geek-cycle.

When someone approaches you, lock your screen and turn to the person. This serves two purposes. First, much of what we do in security is best concealed from a non-security audience.

For example, do you really need someone seeing that you are tracking sites that people are visiting on your web filter? This creepy aspect of what we have to do to perform our jobs is best kept quiet for all but those with a need to know.

Second, do you get a feeling of satisfaction when you feel that you are being actively listened to? You are not unique in that regard. Everyone likes the feeling of being heard.

If you want to test yourself on your next interaction, just ask yourself the question: “What color is that person’s eyes?”

If you can look at a person intently while still listening, then you are doing a good job of connecting on a better level than by staring at the pixels on your screen. (It is not a staring contest, so please refrain from a “hard stare” with this technique. Soft concentration, while truly listening works best.)

Of course, there are true introverts in the world, and it makes this task even harder, but it is not impossible.

Please do not feel harshly criticized by this advice. This is no longer a problem limited to the infosec community. When you see people in social situations with their noses buried in their gadgets rather than engaged with the people in front of them, you have to wonder what is becoming of us.

We techies have been leaders in innovations for a long time now. Let’s lead the charge back towards more civil interactions with those who have supported our rise to our new-found stature.


Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this guest author article are solely those of the contributor, and do not necessarily reflect those of Tripwire, Inc.

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