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Communication Tips I've learned

David Pereira
I love learning, programming and discover new solutions. Also kotlin rules
・5 min read

Table of contents

Introduction

Remote work is very much a reality today, and I've noticed some challenges regarding my communication with others in my organization. Not only that but there are concepts I recently learned about communication, that I find very interesting.

In this blog post, I want to write a little about what I've learned and give you some tips since this is an area I'm focusing on this year 🙂.

Intention

Have an intention before entering a conversation. When that conversation ends you should have fulfilled that intention or gotten something else out of it.

If I were to ask someone for help on a subject, every time I'm in doubt, I'd probably interrupt people often. This is something I don't like happening to me, so I make an effort to respect other people's time, and think about my intention and what I want to get out of the conversation, before chatting with that person.

I'll give you an example that happened at work to show the importance of intention and listening to other's intentions too. Let's say you are in a team of 5 people, and on Wednesday you have a meeting scheduled to sync with everyone. I don't know if you've had these types of meetings before, but usually, the topics that are talked about are issues and decisions that need to be made or announcements. In this meeting, you want to talk about 4 different topics that you need help with. But if you think about it, your colleagues also have issues they need help with. Everyone goes to the conversation with their own intentions.

The meeting was about one hour, and at the end, I had only talked about one of the topics I wanted to discuss. This is fine because other important topics needed to be discussed with the whole team.

Choice of words

If you have some code review process in place in your organization or contribute to open-source projects, you know how hard it can be to give feedback. At least that is something I spend a lot of time on when reviewing PRs or giving feedback about a piece of code to someone. The main reason I use my time to think about what and how I'm going to say something is because words can impact people. You might say something to try and help the other person, but it comes off wrong and the other person gets hurt.

Constructive feedback can help people grow, but we always have to think about our words and how they can be perceived by others. This feedback can be written in the form of a DM on Slack, a comment on a PR on GitHub, or an email. In asynchronous communication, you usually have more time to think about your words before starting the conversation. But remember, what is your intention for that conversation? Do you want to point out some errors you saw in a PR? Do you want to congratulate the other person for their amazing presentation they just did?

Whatever it is, take some time to think about it and how it can be perceived by the other person. If you want to suggest some improvements to that person's code, start by appreciating their work and effort. The things you see as errors may not be errors from their perspective, so ask what are the reasons behind their decision.

Give space for others to speak and listen closely

Recently I did an exercise about listening to others that was super fun, and I got some very valuable feedback on my performance and insights on what I did. After some time I made a retrospective and realized that some of the stuff I was learning, was actually not sinking in my brain and I behaved as I normally do. One of the errors I made in that exercise was not giving the other person space to respond to my question.

Maybe you have experienced this as well, but sometimes you are so excited to talk about something, you ask a question, and immediately after you ask another question 😅. For example, I'd ask a broad question to initiate a new topic in the conversation but then ask another more specific question. This was bad for a couple of reasons, one being the fact I'm not giving the other person a chance to respond to the first question, only when I finish asking more questions... The other reason is that I'm introducing a new topic, just because I'm interested in it. But this doesn't take into consideration the interest of the other person, I just want to ask it because of my interests.

When we are listening to others, they are your focus. The conversation should go towards their interests and what they want to talk about.

Now I understand it's difficult sometimes to not get carried and ask more questions (for me it can be 😅), but I want to fight my default behavior. I behave and talk in a certain way without thinking much about what exactly is happening sometimes, and this is called our auto-pilot mode.

Maybe we are having issues and ask someone for help but when we start speaking to that person, we bombard them with questions without even giving them context of the problem or what is going on in the first place, which leads to confusion.

Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed reading this blog post and took something out of it. We communicate with each other every day, but there are certain instances where these types of skills are most important. Being able to speak fluently and in an organized matter, can lead you to make a presentation in 20 minutes, instead of 40 minutes. This blog post for example could have been more concise and split into different posts perhaps. So this is something I still need to work on, because the more compiled your ideas/thoughts are, the higher the chance of them helping someone else.

Have you had instances where you can't seem to communicate your idea to another person, or a group of people? If you want to leave a comment about your experience,
I'll happily read and respond 😀.

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