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

Subject: Re: The Big Lie (was 'Are You a Writer?')
From: Hannah <to -dot- hannah -at- usa -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 05 Mar 2002 11:34:21 -0500

Andrew Plato wrote: <snipped here and there - responses are to the thread in
general and not just these comments>
> Just because you didn't "get it" doesn't mean the instructor did not
> communicate properly.
>

I have to disagree with this (sort of). If the person were anything but a
teacher, I would agree. However, teachers are tasked with the responsibility
to adapt their methods so their students learn the subject matter. It is also
the responsibility of the student to go to the teacher and ask for help and
work with the teacher to find a way for the student to learn. So though the
teacher may have communicated properly for an engineer (or other group type),
the teacher did not communicate properly for the student in that class.


> 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.

I absolutely agree. Instead of saying I am an effective communicator, I more
often say I am the team's translator. It is common in meetings between the
team and the project coordinators that the programmers will explain something
and be met with blank stares. I basically explain it slightly differently in
my own way and I get "Oh - yes! That'll be great!". That's just the type of
people we're dealing with. And vice versa. Sometimes it's more like tennis
than a meeting. However, I would not be able to do this if I didn't know our
project inside and out. I have to know how things were done before, how they
want to do them in the future, and how we can cover both. I have to know when
requests are possible, when they're not, and how they relate to the budgets,
hardware, and software requirements. I have to know how they'll effect
security and IT, as well as any government requirements. I have to know a lot
more than just the actual module we're working on. When we're dealing with
other programmers, though, they all understand each other no problem, and they
understand how the module will touch and effect the other systems. My skill is
in knowing several ways to communicate to different audiences and being able
to adapt quickly to the most effective way. But my skill relies on a lot of
technical knowledge and I don't think you can separate the two.


> 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.
>
> 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.
>

This is what I find to be a skill. Being able to overcome those filters. Being
able to adapt my communication patterns to fit my audience. Everyone learns
differently. Some do better to read lengthy explanations so they have every
detail and they can fit it all together. Some need statistics and numbers to
make sense of information. Some need graphs. Some need pictures. Some need a
set path to follow while others only require a basic summary of what needs to
be done. The skill is in identifying your audiences needs (whether you are
speaking or writing or teaching) and adapting your methods to match those.
Find the way to get through those filters that block out the boring subject. I
do have to say that just saying you are a "good communicator" seems a lot like
saying you're a "good people person". You have to bring more to an employer.
If you have these adaptive skills, that is something more than just plain
communication and that needs to be....heh....communicated? :-)

On the other hand, if a person truly does not wish to learn, no amount of
adaptation will help. This comes back to what I mentioned about
responsibility. Too many people have their own ideas of how things should be
done that they completely tune out contradictory ideas. Sometimes it is also
that they have already decided it is out of their league (as I suspect with
many of those who oppose taking technical classes). They've decided it is
either too difficult and they justify it by saying they can do without. Or
they do just fine without. It's funny, though, so rarely do you hear "oh that
guy? he was good but he just knew too much."

My point is, you could jump through hoops and if they refuse to listen, they
will never hear a word. Much like children with their hands over their ears.
The trick as a student is to make sure you don't have your hands over your
ears. Many times we do and we don't even know it.


hannah Bissell
to -dot- hannah -at- usa -dot- net






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