How to Communicate Well

Mar 21, 2022 in Reflections

To be successful as a team, it is crucial to communicate well.

It's essential to make sure that everyone has the same understanding. Especially when we are not communicating in our native language.

Here are some learnings of my own.

Set up Defaults

In the last 5 years, my language of choice was English.

Why?

  • Because it's universal
  • Everybody understands it
  • I don't have to translate it
  • I reach more people with it

The important part is to define and stick to a default. Nothing is worse than documentation in many languages without knowing the correct one.

Define one team language and stick with it. If there are only native German speakers in one room, there is no need to talk English (unless it is recorded). Still, the docs should always be accessible in the default language.

The same goes for tooling. Define one tool for a purpose. Too many tools create confusion about where information is stored. Less is more.

Take Time

If I Had More Time, I Would Have Written a Shorter Letter. - Blaise Pascal

Think about it. The more time you take, the clearer your message is.

In How to Slack I told you to not write long essays. Again, less is more.

Take time to write brief messages that don't leave questions open. And if you ask questions, make sure they are clear and unambiguous.

On Abbreviations and Names

In my former job, people loved acronyms. I was there for four years and still didn't get some of them.

Still, they can be used efficiently, if communicated well. But when you need more time to explain an acronym than to say the full words, you are doing it wrong.

If you use a lot of them, create a glossary and keep it up to date. Make it available for every new team member.

The same applies for other names. If you follow any organization method or working method, make sure everybody is on the same page. How you use the word "Team" or "Community" and what roles and rules apply?

Absolute Numbers

Whenever you can, use absolute numbers. Don't use relative times, percentages, or distances.

"Let's catch up in 45 minutes." That sentence is true for exactly 1 minute.

"Let's catch up at 07:30 AM." This sentence is way more concise.

Reading the first message, there is room for interpretation. In the second one, I don't need the context of when the message was written.

It is more obvious with finance numbers. Thirty percent growth sound cool, but it doesn't help me if I don't have the former numbers present. Growing from 1 million to 1.3 million in revenue paints a clearer picture.

The percentage only helps when the context is clear.

Change your Perspective

Communication can also be tough. Especially when the other person doesn't seem to get what you want. Or if he or she disagrees with you.

Attempt to see the world from their perspective. What impact have your words on their life? How does it affect them?

And do this often. Think about how your communication impacts people's life and work.

Conclusion

While all these tips don't sound like much, they add up. Positive or negative.

Take time to work on your communication skill, as a team, and as an individual.

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