I have three areas into which I wish to dip:
- Communicating your message
- Receiving a message
- Means of communication
Communicating Your Message
A quote by Stephen R. Covey that I find often relates is, "who do they send back to school when the salesman doesn't sell - the buyer?"
The responsibility of ensuring a message is understood, as the messenger intended for it to be understood, lies only with the messenger. If you, reading this note, are unable to interpret what I'm trying to say, should I blame you?
If the recipient is overtired or upset and refuses to listen, then you have picked the wrong time and should try again later. If your message is left unread in a crowded email inbox, then you should have followed it up or tried another means of communication (like a phone call).
Understandably it is frustrating when you have to chase certain people or make numerous attempts to reach them using up much or your valuable time. But this frustration arises in you, not the other person. Allowing it to consume you will only waste more time. Instead, assuming your message matters, learn how your recipient likes to receive communications. Ideally, they would operate how you wish them to operate, but everyone is wired differently, and trying to rewire them is futile.
If it doesn't matter whether or not this person receives your message, then why are you sending it in the first place? If communicating with this person is cumbersome and inconvenient, then weigh up the importance of your communication against this inconvenience.
It is notably difficult to get a message to the President of the United States, but I bet if your message were important enough, such as your life depended on it, you'd find the motivation and means to get it there.
Receiving A Message
When it comes to listening, do so, as Ray Dalio advises, with "radical open-mindedness." With every moment comes an opportunity to learn. If you don't like what you are hearing and choose to be defensive or switch off, you have turned your back on that opportunity. Which is absolutely fine, we all do it, especially when our emotions get the better of us. But you should be aware of what you've done and recognize how emotions can hinder progress.
Enter conversations assuming there is value to be taken from what the other person(s) has to say. They could have more knowledge, a different experience, or just an alternative perspective. You might not always find the value, and in that case, at least you tried and opened the gate to learn something rather than erect a defensive barrier. You only see the world through your eyes, and it is useful to have others share how they see it through theirs. If you remain open-minded, the next time that person has something to share, they will come forward readily and without fear.
Means of Communication
This topic surfaced during the CI Summit 2020 last month - a brief discussion on the appropriateness of text messages for professional communication.
There are many ways in which to communicate today: message forum, text, Facebook message, a note appended to a calendar invite, email, phone call, video conference, facetime, etc. I'm sure there are more.
To quote Fernando Gomez above, "each one has advantages and disadvantages." If you insist on the use or disuse of any of these communication forms, then you are micromanaging your team and stopping them from benefiting from the advantages or forcing the disadvantages upon them. Instead, give your team the freedom to choose. But show them this thread first, so they know the responsibility of ensuring a message is understood, as the messenger intended for it to be understood, lies only with the messenger.
This rule, "responsibility...lies only with the messenger," applies to official project communication as well. If the messenger intends to formally notify the owner of a delay or early warning and sends an email rather than a formal note through formal channels, then they have failed to communicate as they intended. The responsibility lies with them, but they chose the wrong form of communication. Manage this individual, do not micromanage them. Motivate them to communicate correctly going forward, do not take away their freedom to choose and demotivate them.
George Lintern Aff.M.ASCE
Sent: 02-14-2020 15:28
From: Tirza Austin
Subject: Engineering Communication
Effective communication is often a challenge in the workplace. What tips do you have to share about office communication for engineers?
Manager, Online Community
American Society of Civil Engineers
1801 Alexander Bell Drive
Reston, VA 20191