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Xinran Wang
Xinran Wang

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Professional communication skills - identify your audience

Welcome back to my series on professional communication skills. In part 1, we established the importance of growing your communication skills, especially within a tech-focused career. In this article, I'm going to discuss the first skill that can help improve your communication abilities.

Identify your audience

The first step is to consciously identify who you're communicating with.

The way different groups of people communicate between themselves can be vastly different. Think about the common discussions between engineers vs managers vs directors; the problems they discuss, the terminology they use, even the tools they rely on for communicating, are all quite distinct.

By default, after a few weeks on a job, you get used to talking with other engineers on your team. But what does "getting used to" mean? Why are you able to communicate relatively easily? Why might talking to a non-engineer or non-team member seem harder?

With people you work with on a regular basis, sure you get used to their personalities and ways of talking, but you also inherently share underlying context: goals, tools, languages, acronyms etc. All of these factors affect effectiveness of your communication style. By identifying who you're talking to, you can start adjusting for those differences and vary the information, terminology, and style of your communication.

For example, if you're a frontend engineer, talking about your problems with javascript, react, html, css, webpack, npm etc. might cause a lot of confusion with the backend engineers on the team, bu they can still probably provide input on technical design issues or help talk through a bug.

Moving a bit farther away from the tech stack, designers and product managers won't really care about the technical problems you're having but would be happy to talk through product and design level questions and feedback.

Moving another level away, directors, marketing, legal etc. might all be so far removed from the projects you work on that there won't be many commonalities in your day to day work, especially at a larger company. So even when talking about the same projects, you'll have to find ways to communicate in a way that's relevant to them. This might sound more like user research, metrics, or alignment with company goals.

So in the future, try being more conscious of your audience, especially when you're working with people outside of your immediate team. Think about the words you use and adjust for your audience. These small changes can have a big impact in how you are able to communicate outside of engineering.

This is part 2 of my series on professional communication skills. Stick around for future articles in this series!

Professional Communication Skills series:

Top comments (2)

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Nihar Raote

I was waiting for the next part in this series after I read your first post in this series. I learned a lot today!