Tag Archives: Communication

Drawing on the introvert’s experience

Want to know what it’s like to live inside an introvert’s head? Liz Fosslien and Mollie West have drawn you some pictures.

At first glance I thought Fosslien and West were oversimplifying things. (Sounds like the introvert in me, doesn’t it? Saying that things aren’t as simple as they seem.) But before long the drawings had grown on me.

Here’s the first one. It’s the first thing you’ll see – before you see any text at all – when you pull up the article.

introextro_flow_1

At first I didn’t like this at all. I took it to mean that, as an introvert, I’m an undisciplined thinker.

But if I’m honest, I have to admit it works like this. When I see and hear things, they run through a gauntlet of filters — connecting with memories, bouncing off feelings, coalescing into plans — before emerging as thoughts. It means that I might not always be quick to reply. But my reply, when it comes, will likely take into account all of the relevant factors.

Does it mean that the introvert’s way is better? Continue reading

Don’t offend anyone — and don’t communicate either

Today’s news brings word that Harvard University is allowing its students to pick the gender pronouns by which they would like to be called.

Humpty Dumpty

When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.

In addition to the traditional he and she, students can select the now commonly accepted they. Or they can select other, less well known options like ze, hir, and hirs.

According to a Boston Globe story, the move by Harvard “is aimed at increasing inclusion on the campus.”

I’m all for inclusion. Yet, as the old maps used to warn navigators when they approached unexplored territory, here be dragons.

Why? Based on what I know about human communication, I’d say that Harvard’s new policy will increase, not decrease, the odds of someone taking offense. And the long-term effect might be to shut down, not enhance, communication.

Communication depends on everyone having a more-or-less shared understanding of the language they use. If I use a word, I expect you to know what I mean, and vice versa. I don’t use obscure meanings — unless I’m trying to confuse or mislead you, which is the opposite of communication. I also make a good-faith effort to interpret your words in the way you intended to use them.

But unless I know all the nuanced rules for using words like ze, hir, and hirs, the risk of misunderstandings — and hurt feelings — increases. Will I need to learn a special argot just to communicate with people on the Harvard campus?

Sounds like a lot of trouble. Maybe I just won’t bother.

By seeking to create an “inclusive” atmosphere, by building a cocoon in which no one’s feelings are hurt, Harvard is actually increasing the likelihood that someone will take umbrage. And they might be discouraging people from trying to communicate at all.

When Your People Go their Own Way

There go the people. I must follow them, for I am their leader.

– Attributed to Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin

"Make way for Ducklings" statue showing ducks in a rowYou’re a good leader. You can explain how to get things done. You can persuade when necessary. Above all, you excel at leading by example.

So everyone on the team is in lock-step, working in perfect harmony and at maximum efficiency, doing things exactly as you envision them being done. Right?

Wrong. It doesn’t always go that way. If you’re like me, it hardly ever goes that way.

People have the darnedest habit of doing things their way instead of your way. It’s not because they can’t take direction or because they won’t take direction. It’s because they’re people.

So what does it mean when your people go their own way? Continue reading

What is technical communication?

That’s a good question to start with.

The prime directive for technical communication: audience first.

Everything flows from that. As a technical communicator, my job is to deliver content without compromising its truthfulness or completeness.

I ought to write as if Yoda is perched on my shoulder: passing on knowledge and wisdom, and instilling confidence in my audience.

What is technical communication to you?

Note: As you might know, I blogged on the website for the company where I used to work. A couple of the links here are to posts where I develop each idea more fully.