Communication is Hard... But it's Everything

Have you ever re-read your email only to find out it doesn't make much sense? Perhaps you've been astonished how differently the same discussion was understood by different participants? We stumble getting our message across to people all the time. Yet most of our work and life depends on it.

We Do Everything With Others

There's only so much we can do solo. Yeah, sure we can realize a small project alone. We can create a piece of software alone. Arrange a small garden. Make fancy drawings of a concept car.

Just about any larger endeavor requires cooperation with other people. Whether you need to work on a team, convince someone to your point of view or sell something.

All of those activities require effective transferring concepts from your head to the heads of people you work with and sometimes depend on. Transferring ideas from head to head... To give you an example of just how difficult it may be to communicate with others, here'e a quick story.

Communication Is Hard

At Evojam we're working in a startup coworking space at Warsaw University. As it's a startup space, it's modest and not everything is as polished as in a corporation offices. So for a couple of months there was no kitchen on our floor. Finally at some point in July we've got our kitchen set up.

The good news was announced on a Facebook group that gathers nearly all the startups from the floor. There was also an announcement on our Slack #general channel for everybody. There were discussions in the open-space about the new kitchen.

Imagine my amazement when two months later on a single day I've discovered two people in my office totally unaware of the fact that there's a kitchen on the floor. Surprised by this fact I went on to repeat the announcement on the Facebook group and #general Slack channel. Guess what? The same week I found yet another person not knowing about the kitchen.

Abstract Topics Communication

This got me thinking. If communicating such a simple and concrete information about a tangible object can be so difficult, what are the chances we'll be ever able to communicate effectively on abstract topics? Like the kind of design pattern we may want to use in our project. Or the kind of feeling the newly designed cafe we want to have?

You Need Practice

Communication is something you can never escape from. Communication takes all shapes and forms. Starting from a "simple" 1-1 conversation, through larger meetings up to emailing and writing longer form content.

Here's a few tips for various communication channels you may apply immediately:

  • Communication Channel First decide on which communication channel to use. Our default behavior is to use the one most convenient for us. But just think for a second whether your counterpart will appreciate a phone call when a text message could be enough? Or perhaps they do business via FB Messenger or Whatsapp? Use that - make it easier for them!

  • Email The next time you craft an email, re-read it after a while, before sending it. Try to make it an awesome experience for the reader.

  • Meetings Before the next meeting spend some time thinking about who your audience is? How do they usually communicate? What resonates with them? What kinds of concepts do they know already that you could use?

  • Discussion During talks with others it's worth to repeat what they said the way you understood it. Chances are they'll correct you, tell you more or allow you to understand the issue at hand more precisely. It's called paraphrasing and it's also worth to ask others to do the same. It's amazing what you discover.

You can never get too much practice in communicating effectively!