07 July 2011
"Not everyone who understands something can explain it" - Buck Woody
"Your UI is how you communicate with others"- Buck Woody
Communication is a top 10 required skill in most careers, including IT and software engineering. That makes sense to me. I have a harder time working with engineers, customers, and managers who don’t communicate well, or at all. Working with them is far more difficult than going to someone who can tell me the information I need.
The corollary to this idea is: people who have a hard time communicating also have a hard time understanding. That makes sense as well; I often ask clarifying questions to make sure I understand someone’s intent and message. Communication skills are just as important when learning as they are when teaching.
Buck's first key lesson: each of us has a style. That struck a chord in me. Our style is many things. It is our cadence, our word choice, the common phrases we use, and when we use humor. His argument is that we should each seek to refine our personal style, instead of adopting somebody else’s. We should take the best parts of our own style and tweak them to be more effective.
Another key lesson? We already communicate, every day. It is unavoidable. So instead of learning to communicate, the lesson is to improve what you already do.
I don’t know what my personal style is, exactly. So I have been asking around. I found out that when I speak, I have a distinctive style. I am sometimes wordy, and I add nuance to avoid being too forceful. I also like to make my ideas a little abstract, because I want them to be broadly useful. I like my ideas to be seen like software patterns: useful in lots of situations.
If you don’t know your own personal style, ask. Your friends and colleagues know it very well.
Lastly, and most importantly, people have a natural preference to stories. A dry recitation of facts will be less well understood than if it feels like part of a story, or narrative.
The #1 Skill: Learn to tell stories.