Becoming Better Communicators

by Inayaili de Leon

20 Reader Comments

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  1. While you do make some valid points I feel that a developer who is not actively participating in learning is certainly a sub par developer. Additionally a team that is unwilling to speak up when they do not understand something is not going to be very productive. While it is good practice to reduce jargon, I believe a minimal expectation of a developer within the same company would be to google the phrase “IA Card Sort” to actually learn what that means. If googling fails then they should ask the originator of the document about what that phrase means. Perhaps the failure of this to occur suggests a poor corporate structure; questioning and curiosity should be part of any development team!
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  2. Awesome article. This is exactly what I was opposing though, when I wrote about short phone calls, http://www.sitekickr.com/blog/short-phone-calls-time-managements-number-foe/ Perhaps it’s different for designers, but I feel that excessive communication slows a project down.  Of course, it’s necessary, but there need to be boundaries. Meetings and reviews equate to inflated project costs.
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  3. @tesmond: I agree a certain degree of curiosity is vital for the work we do, for both designers and developers. All I can add is that the developers I’m referring to in the example are developers as their background, but not in this specific role or project - they did not do any of the development, but were in fact the stakeholders and users of the final product. Hope this makes sense :) @lan99: There are certainly lots of times when meetings, phone calls, emails etc. are a waste of time, I think the way to fix that takes a lot of work but is worth it. I think the type of phone calls I mean are the ones that actually save you time and at the same time create another bond - which is the main focus of the article and is what digital communication makes us lose. Regarding your article, you mention as a solution “religiously answering emails as soon as you get them” - wouldn’t this be an even greater distraction/interruption? There can be excessive communication very quickly and very easily, from my experience though it’s usually the lack of it (or of high quality communication and understanding) that leads to not only upset people but less than ideal final work.
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  4. Great article! Thank you for this
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  5. Thank you for this article. It has a lot of good points. Simple, but very easy to overlook in the day to day. I especially enjoyed the quotes and now have a few books to add to my “to read” list. cheers.
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  6. Inayaili, thank you for this article. What ways might you suggest to disarm resistance from some members of a distributed team of teams, who do not want to think that people who _make_ Web sites need similar effort in communication as people who _visit_ Web sites? Some have a temperament which prefers obscure and complicated to clear and simple: How much of an accomplishment can it be, if any designer or developer can understand what I did? Some react emotionally because when you explain IA card sort, they realize they might ought to explain X Y Z jargon? Nevertheless, the silent majority of ordinary competent team members do collaborate better when communication is better, though they might rarely say so, if they even realize it. Is it an application of the Dale Carnegie quote to find _seemingly effortless_ ways to invest more effort in communication to help the majority, yet avoid offending the “pride and vanity” of the minority?
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  7. lan99, I guess “religiously answering emails as soon as you get them” should be a clerk’s job, not that of a designer or developer—else, there’s not much development.
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  8. Perhaps it went without saying that, even when you did not define IA card sort, because it is an accepted jargon term, if you said what you meant and meant what you said, at least you empowered people to find the meaning (as mentioned in comment 1). Too often in a corporate structure, terms like IA, for example, come to mean anything, everything, and eventually nothing. If communication is muddled in the large, you need more strength and grace to swim against the current, when you improve communication in the small.
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  9. @hannahfhudson: Thanks! :) It’s always great to have a good list of “to read” books! @mpedrotti: Good point. Some people just prefer to not be helpful, and sometimes that might even be me or you, if we’re having a bad day/week/month. I like to think that those people are just being misunderstood somehow, maybe there’s something no one has ever bothered to ask them or taken time to actually listen to them? Sometimes it takes an excruciating amount of energy to breathe and think “this person is not out to get me, let’s hear what she has to say” and I find myself thinking why are they not making the same effort, right? Maybe think of them as a project in itself? Truth is, within an organisation, everyone should be working towards the same goals that in the end will help the organisation move forward, but we seem to forget about that when we’re going about our day-to-day fights and struggles. I hope this makes sense :)
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  10. You mentioned the problems that come with working as part of a remote team, but I’m curious about your thoughts on the challenges of digital communication with clients who are across the country (or globe). Since client interactions tend to be more formal than our internal interactions, how can we counteract the challenges of not having in-person meetings? Does it mean we should Skype instead of just call a client? Should we build a number of on-site visits into the budget of any remote client? Would love thoughts/suggestions on this! To your second point (on emotions), I’d heartily recommend the whole world read Crucial Conversations. It takes your basic premise and provides tools for getting better at potentially troubling interactions with others. To your third point, I thought you were Mike Monteiro for a second :) By the way, kudos for bringing both him and Andy Rutledge into a blog post in equally positive lights!
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  11. @trosetty: Thanks! :) I find that Skype voice and video calls make it easier to communicate with clients that are across the globe - short and often calls is what I usually do. I’m also usually flexible in terms of time differences too - working a bit later in the day so they don’t have to call me very early in the morning. I know some clients do feel that there has to be at least an initial face-to-face meeting, this doesn’t happen in my case though - a call will suffice.
    I think above everything honesty, being up-front and generally letting them know you’re worried about some part of the project, won’t be focusing on their project for a while for some reason, or other stuff that sometimes just doesn’t feel right about a project should be talked about with no delay - I think clients like to hear about things that are not right, because they’ll trust you’re not seeing things “with your pink shades on” - and will feel more positive when things do go smoothly. Hope this helps :)
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  12. I wonder if there are two important types of communication that designers can receive. One is feedback from individuals - customers, friends etc. This is anecdotal and subjective - but often useful. And there there is a type of communication that is more empirical. For example, the sales figures as a result of an advertisement. Friends and clients can say that they love a design, but that’s little use if the sales figures say that the design doesn’t sell. Most designers - certainly the ones that stay in business - are probably very good at the first type of communication. But is there enough measurement of the second type?
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  13. @Alex Singleton: Good point, you mean the distinction between feedback and data, analytics, numbers, right? I think a good design process would take both into consideration.
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  14. Great points Inayaili. With so much digital communication going on I think we should always take the option of face to face whenever possible. Even if that face to face is over Skype.
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  15. Great, timely article for me. I run a distributed company (while working mostly from home [with a 2-month old baby girl]) and my team (and family) encounters most of these difficult points on a weekly basis. Co-working downtown (San Francisco) at least one day a week helps a lot, and the human interaction with other like-minded, small business owners is so helpful. What I have to keep in check daily (hourly) is the matter of email, whether it’s from a project management system or direct from a client/contractor. Responding too quickly to email starts the spiraling pattern into chaos, when email becomes a chat program, degrading into meaningless chatter. Take a step back, and set limits on email. Checking email three to four times a day should be my maximum, and if there’s more frequency needed, make the phone call or move it to Skype/Jabber. #GTD #LESS
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  16. I made the same experience like trosetty! Working with remote clients is not always easy but can free up a lot of time on the other hand!
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  17. Thank you for this article. Sometimes we overlook the importance of communication and the effect it has on us and others.
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  18. @Kevin Davison: Yeah, email can quickly take over your life and become a full time job in itself. I don’t have fixed times when I reply to it, but I am quite reactive, which is not great. Although in my case, I know lots of emails are time-sensitive, and some people treat email as I’d treat a phone call, so I guess you have to adapt. Because I’m home away from everyone, what I try to tell people is that if something is really urgent and I’m not responding, please just call me. May not be a great solution, but at least I know I can focus on something without keeping a constant eye on email, and for me it’s always nice to hear my colleagues voice.
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  19. Kevin’s above comment resonates with me (5 month-old boy and 4-year-old girl), as I work from home with my consulting. The email-spiral is never-ending. I find it’s necessary to turn-off the channels of communication, and actively turn-on (check-email) when able to completely focus. My client pays more for my attention than he does for my time. 8 hours a day is meaningless if my production is awful. Lately, I even turned off email-notifications on my smart phones, to keep that separate, as well.
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  20. @unconventure: Yeah, that’s very true. I try to keep notifications to a minimum too, but because I work from home with the rest of my team at the office, my phone is always within reach for any eventuality - I want to be as available as if I were at the office, or as close as I can. My other email account though, I treat differently. I’ve written about it a bit more here http://the-pastry-box-project.net/inayaili-de-leon/2012-october-12/
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