Communicating as an Engineer

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  • 1.  Engineering Communication

    Posted 02-14-2020 03:29 PM
    Effective communication is often a challenge in the workplace. What tips do you have to share about office communication for engineers?

    Tirza Austin
    Manager, Online Community
    American Society of Civil Engineers
    1801 Alexander Bell Drive
    Reston, VA 20191

  • 2.  RE: Engineering Communication

    Posted 02-15-2020 09:45 AM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 02-15-2020 09:44 AM
    Thanks for this communication Tirza!

    To all who choose to add their perspective, If I may, consider both effective and efficient communication.

    This is NOT a play on words as the combination of these two 'e' words means:
    a. Doing it right, and,

    b. Doing the right thing.

    Then, there is the matter of the form of any communication, such as:
    1. Verbal.

    2. Body language.

    3. Tonality.

    Its been suggested that at least 70% or more of the message you send that gets 'received' is the result,

    not of the words you say, but your body language and tonality when delivering it.

    Now, to respond more directly to this new post:

    I struggle to do this, but since I have learned that "almost all" of us have the habit of immediately responding with
    our response to any initial question, I offer a couple of things I have started to turn into a habit:
    1. Don't interrupt the speaker.

    2. When they seem done, before immediately coming back in with my response, I state
    "That's an interesting point, could you tell me a bit more?"

    3. After they respond to my point 2. above, depending on the clarification of their question,
    I may say "I don't know. But I will look into this and get back to you."

    Thanks for reading and considering my perspectives.


    William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCE
    Buffalo, N.Y.

    "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880

  • 3.  RE: Engineering Communication

    Posted 02-18-2020 06:37 PM
    Greetings Tirza:

    The question is very broad. However, in my humble opinion I would say:
    1.- Know your audience (supervisor, employee, coworker, client, etc.)
    2.- Decide how to communicate your message (Oral, Written, Visual or Electronic) since each one has advantages and disadvantages.
    3.- Remember the golden rule: "Treat people the way you want to be treated"
    4.- Start with something that catches the attention of your audience.
    5.- Present logical and concise reasons for your message.
    6.- Close your communication in a professional way.

    Fernando Gomez

    Fernando Gomez SET, S.ASCE
    General Manager
    Dallas, TX.

  • 4.  RE: Engineering Communication

    Posted 03-04-2020 02:33 PM

    Hello all,

    I have three areas into which I wish to dip:

    1. Communicating your message
    2. Receiving a message
    3. 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
    Civil Engineer
    Nashville TN

  • 5.  RE: Engineering Communication

    Posted 03-05-2020 10:51 AM

    An Apt Quote

    I read this today which nicely adds to me post yesterday.
    "The meaning of communication is the response that you get.  If the response you get is not the meaning you intended.  Try again."
    - Joseph McClendon III

    George Lintern Aff.M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer
    Nashville TN