Re: The Big Lie (was 'Are You a Writer?')

Subject: Re: The Big Lie (was 'Are You a Writer?')
From: Andrew Plato <intrepid_es -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 4 Mar 2002 17:21:48 -0800 (PST)

Micahel Huggins wrote...

> Whether my colleagues and supervisors were typical or atypical for their
time, I honestly have no idea. > It is interesting to me, in the light of the
recent debate on content knowledge versus communication
> ability, that the Director of the Tech Writing university program, the
Spenser Ph.D., scrupulously
> advised all of us doing the graduate program to take a course in programming
languages in the
> computer science department, to improve our technical credentials.

Good teacher.

> In that course, ironically, I discovered an instructor who, whatever she may
have *known* about
> those languages, was almost completely incapable of *communicating* her
knowledge in any linear,
> coherent way. Her inability in that regard was extreme, but some variation of
that inability has been
> more typical than otherwise of many of the SME's I have encountered in
various fields over the years,
> which is why I find myself definitely less than impressed at refusals to see
our basic ability to
> communicate as our distinctive value. In my experience, many can write code;
many fewer can write a
> coherent paragraph describing what the code amounts to or is used for.

Just because you didn't "get it" doesn't mean the instructor did not
communicate properly.

Communication, remember, involves two parties. There has to be somebody on the
other end who is listening. The problem with most SMEs is they don't sugar coat
information. It tends to fly out in raw, unabridged manner indicative of their
technical prowess. This doesn't mean they are incapable of communication, its
just that their form of communication does not suit all audiences. Most
engineers communicate very well with each other. I don't know sign-language,
but two people "speaking" sign apparently can get a lot across. Just because I
don't get it doesn't mean their communication ability is bad.

The trick for any writer is to be able to effectively communicate with both
sides of the picture: SME and audience. And the only way you'll ever be able to
communicate effectively with SMEs, is to possess *some* of the knowledge and
skills they possess.

The fact is - everything communicates...its just that the communication might
not be what you want to hear (or read). That doesn't mean the person talking is
a poor communicator. It could mean that the audience doesn't want to listen.

People generally don't like to hear information that disagrees with them or
sets them down a course they don't like. We all do this. Its called
"filtering." You pay attention to stuff you find interesting and you ignore
that which disagrees with you.

For example, there are people in the world who honestly think the world is
something like 5000 years old. These people adamantly refuse to listen to
anything that contradicts this idea. Does that mean that the people who publish
articles that show that the earth is much older are bad communicators? No, it
means that some segment of that audience doesn't want to hear that.

The only way to judge the effectiveness of communication is to analyze what
information made it across and how well it was received. Therefore, just
because an SME didn't deliver information to you in a manner you found
pleasing, does not mean that person is incapable of communicating. It could
mean you lacked the proper "protocols" to communicate effectively with them.

The act and process of communicating is innate to all living beings Michael.
Therefore, you're not exactly brining a heck of a lot to the table when you say
you're a better communicator. In a sense, communication is in the ear of the
receiver. Therefore, your "value add" is only as good as the people listening.

And if you don't know what you're talking about, people won't listen. Or they
will and you'll mislead them. Either way: bad communication.

Andrew Plato

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