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How Do You Keep Communication Quality High?

forstmeier profile image John Forstmeier Updated on ・1 min read

I'm not sure where I first heard this, it might have been from my dad at some point, but it's always stuck with me regarding team communication:

Repeat what you've heard to the speaker in your own words

This helps to build a mutual understanding of whatever the topic is (e.g. a new architecture approach, a design pattern, etc); a "yes" means you understand it and can describe it yourself while a "no" just means you need to continue the discussion.

What are some other "best practices" you've heard regarding communicating and working with teammates?

Discussion (5)

citizen428 profile image
Michael Kohl • Edited

Repeat what you've heard to the speaker in your own words

Funny, earlier this year I was reading The Culture Map by Erin Meyer, and this was mentioned as a very US American approach to communication (explicit and low-context).

At my spawn point in central Europe this would not go down so well. We're still rather low-context, but tend to be more implicit, i.e. if you don't ask a question, people will assume you understood and "needlessly" repeating things back might be considered a mild form of echolalia ;-)

In East and South East Asia — where I spent part of my university years and almost half of my professional life at this point — this approach is pretty much the exact opposite of how most communication works, namely implicit and high-context. The main thing it helps to build would therefore be a mutual understanding of the speaker still not having adapted to local culture and habits.

tl;dr: my personal attempts at keeping communication quality high mostly revolve around finding common ground and adequate framing. It's quite like software development really, the only answer I really have is "it depends".

forstmeier profile image
John Forstmeier Author

This is really interesting. I wasn't even thinking about the varied cultural expectations in communication - at my job I'm in a highly culturally diverse team so this is something that I'm going to keep in mind while working with my team.

P.S. I think the answer deserves it's own hashtag #ItDepends

wolverineks profile image
Kevin Sullivan

I try to avoid vague or ambiguous vocabulary. What does "system" mean? Or, what does "the core" mean? I'm no longer afraid to look dumb when asking a colleague about vocabulary that everyone seems to understanding but me.

And I try to avoid judgemental vocabulary, particularly "should", "just", and "easy".

And like my dad always said, "A. V. O." Avoid Verbal Orders. Get it in writing. People have time to think more clearly when writing things down. You both have a place to ask questions. And you have something to reference if you forget some of the details.

forstmeier profile image
John Forstmeier Author

The ambiguity issue is something that my boss really makes an effort to remove as a bad habit from our teams; if we ever start to describe something and use a word like "that piece" or "this part" he'll stop and ask "what's 'this'?" It's been surprisingly helpful and it's definitely made me more specific in the way I describe systems.

And I like the bit about "judgmental vocabulary" a lot (unless it's in a truly objective scenario).

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