Mike’s Dump

June 14, 2005

Communication

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikesdump @ 1:22 pm

Communication is hard. I mean good communication is hard. Actually communicating in a way that accurately describes what you are thinking or feeling so that others understand you is hard. Did I get it that time? Do you know what I mean?

A long time ago I had on my resume that I had excellent oral and written communication skills. I probably saw that on a sample resume, thought it sounded good and put it on my own. When I need to get a point across I wouldn’t say that I’m incapable but describing myself as an “excellent” communicator is stretching it. I removed this statement from my resume a few years ago but it something that I’m working on so I feel comfortable putting back on. The main motivation to improve is just so I don’t embarrass myself by stepping on my own tongue when trying to talk or worse it comes out wrong and my foot ends up in my mouth (my foot tastes like crap).

There are three main ways that I communicate with others; by phone, by email or face to face.

I have never been a phone person. I short I really hate the phone. I feel most of the time that when I phone someone that I’m interrupting them… and I am. It is pretty unlikely that the person is on the other side just waiting for me to call. Ever notice how telephone solicitors always seem to call when you are eating. They call at this time because there is a good chance that you are going to be home eating. They want to interrupt you while you are eating! The other thing that I hate
about the phone is you can’t read body language. If the same person came to my door while I was eating I would most likely be just as annoyed that someone is trying to sell me crap while I’m eating but the difference is the person at the door is going to be able to pick up on this pretty easy (if they care or not is another matter).

When I got into IT I fell in love with email. Email was great. It can be short and too the point with very little fluff. A lot of times this works very well (quick question on a task) but if any sort of debate starts in an email chain watch out. If you get into a heated debate on the phone you may not have the visual queues but you can pick up on changes in tone in someone’s voice, which can dramatically effect how you may respond. Unfortunately this gets lost in most emails. I CAN TYPE IN ALL CAPS to get someone’s attention, but when I do, at that point am I so pissed off that I’m ready to come over and kick some butt or am I just trying to emphasize a key point that is important to me? Any of my emails that I send now-of-days that are of a more serious nature end up being quite long. I do my best to be very detailed, pick my words carefully and do whatever I can so that I’m not misunderstood. I’ve had some success this way but a lot of times I find myself sending a follow-up email trying to clarify that I wasn’t pissed off when I clicked send or no I meant this and not that. The other downside is these long emails normally take me a long time to write.

So, I don’t like the phone and email is a hit and miss. Avoiding face-to-face communication is one of the reasons that I got into software development. I thought being locked in a poorly lit room, having food pushed under the door and a paycheck direct deposited sounded great (I thought it sounded better than the commission life insurance and mutual fund sales that I was doing at that time). After the sales job I had a number of jobs that allowed me to stay fairly silent most of the day but I was normally board to death. Getting into IT gave me the right mix of being able to use my head while still keeping to myself. Over the past couple of years I have changed a lot and I’m looking for ways to become a more effective communicator (one of my motivating factors for starting a blog). Instead of just keeping my head down and sticking to my own tasks I want a more active role in shaping how things are done from a higher level, which requires more communication. It has taken me a number of years to realize this but excellent oral and written communications skills are one of the most important skills a person can have. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll realize that the phone isn’t that bad after all 🙂

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3 Comments »

  1. I agree with you about the phone…I like it the least of all of the methods available. I was once at a job where the developers had cell phones but those were rarely called…other than that, we didn’t actually have main lines for contact. On one hand, this sounds really extreme; however, I’ve also worked on the opposite end of the spectrum(having a phone that rings every 10-15 minutes)
    and I’d definitely rather have the former.

    E-mail is great, but it has some drawbacks for me. One is that many people (not so much IT) seem to believe that because you can *send* an E-mail instantly, you should receive a response instantly. The "instant gratification" expectation of E-mail is something I wrestle with at times…just because someone fires off an E-mail to me does not always guarantee I will reply in the next minute or so! =)

    The "reply to all" button is also something that I believe should be used sparingly…I’ve seen situations where people hit reply to all simply to ask a question of *one* other person!

    Back in the days of my parents, before E-mail existed, people had to type actual letters or memos for requests. I don’t believe that the normal response to a memo sent to 5 staff members was to send out *another* memo to the same 5 staff members in reply! (Well, in some rare cases, but who would want to work at those kind of places? =) )

    I do like E-mail when it is carefully thought out – which, of course, makes me quite the hypocrite as most of my E-mails are eitehr incomprehensible or have subject line that has nothing to do with the content. But I am working on it!

    For contentious issues though, I’d rather discuss face to face and hear concerns: E-mail is good because at least you’ve got a CYA built in there, but a lot of times I find it beneficial if you are able to look eye-to-eye with someone and listen to their issues. *shrug*

    That being said, I often still face the temptation to just find a quiet place to hide and code without needing to be disturbed by anyone – but I know that the ability to have active communication is what eventually separates the developers from the code monkeys. =)

    Still trying to tear down that invisible Less Nessman wall,

    -Justice

    Comment by Just — June 15, 2005 @ 10:31 am | Reply

  2. On February 17th Isabelle will turn seven. Seven! It is unbelievable how quickly time goes by. Sandy…

    Comment by Mike's Dump — February 10, 2007 @ 9:23 am | Reply

  3. […] minutes! That is probably more time than I spent on the phone all last week. It is good to see my phone-a-phobia isn’t […]

    Pingback by Life will never been the same « Mike’s Dump — September 8, 2007 @ 9:13 pm | Reply


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