I dislike the fact that many people think that computer programmers are hermits that like to live in little cubicles under the fluorescent lights. What does not help is that there are plenty of them that do think that computer users are just the enemy trying to break down the precious system.
The reality is that programming is something that requires concentration. To truly solve a problem with good logic you need to use your brain power to make sense of the steps that have to be taken. It sometimes takes time and then peace to be able to translate the thought into actual code.
Some programmers are always coding in their heads. I have actually woken up in the middle of the night with the solution to a problem and if I have remote access I log in and either solve the problem or send an email to myself. Trying to remember the next day is kind of difficult. Some programmers like to walk while they are solving some logic issue in their head so to other it looks like they are in a completely different world. I don’t pace when I think, however I do listen to music a little too loud and the more input the more I am able to work out a problem, but I am not the norm.
I think that this is where the problem with communicating with the mythical creature the programmer is comes from. You see a dude walking down the hall that does not acknowledge the world around him as a rude person. I think both sides feed off each other and the disconnect just becomes greater and greater. I have seen it in several organizations.
One of the most frustrating things as a person is to be ignored. While users would probably think that they are ignored the most on the equation, programmers are also only approached when they are needed for something. Like Milton in Office Space, they are the lasts ones to get the piece of cake if they even get any.
I will never forget the day that a user had a problem at one of my previous employers and I showed up at her desk. She was a middle age woman that I later found out was actually married to a programmer. When I said hi to her and asked her for more details on what was wrong with her report she looked almost scared. She then said, a programmer never talks to us. I later found out who the worse offender was in our department who even refused to talk to the help desk people.
I cannot solve the problem for everyone but I did find out how to make it better, at least for me. Start communication with people on a regular basis. I am not talking about full on water cooler talks with people but just saying hello in the morning when you walk in the office. I have observed that most people do not do this, or don’t like it. A good morning goes a long way into making you look more personable, specially for a programmer.