Miscommunication is the sand in the gears of modern technology

Here’s the second post of 5 that I’m doing on the book “Verbal Judo – The Gentle Art of Persuasion” by George J. Thompson, Ph.D.

I’m a very visual learner. I like to watch videos on Youtube to learn more about computers, pop psychology, and ant hills. Wait what? Anthills? Hear me out, I promise to get to it by the end of the post.

Working in a modern setting, we have to deal with constituents from all over the place. In order to get anything done these days, you need to rely on a team of people. Nothing meaningful can be accomplished by one person. That’s why we need to communicate so much.

But why doesn’t a single email or a single phone call cut it these days? I’ll tell you why. The channels of communication are so overwhelmed that we need to over-communicate our message to get results – making sure nothing slips through the cracks, letting our colleagues know when, why, and how we need their feedback.

Ken Makovsky gets the point across well:

“Just because you understand something doesn’t necessarily mean everyone else does. So it may bear repeating if, after asking if everyone understood it, someone says “no.” Sometimes people are too shy to admit they don’t understand, so repeating a message is the conservative thing to do. Further, I find that as important as I may think my message is, the minds of the so-called listeners may be wandering. Or the listener may be more focused on his or her retort than taking in what is being spoken” – Ken Makovsky, Forbes

Modern Technology by its nature requires a suspension of disbelief. Why? It’s impossible to know all the deep reasons behind some of the processes we use. We need to rely on the people around us to understand exactly what we are asking for, even if we are using less than ideal words. How do we deal with this? We need to over-communicate.

“We all make mistakes everyday, but listening, empathizing, asking, paraphrasing, and summarizing can go a long way in making you more effective.” – Thompson

And finally, anthills… I told you I’d get back to it.

Whenever I think of over-communication now, I think of anthills. Why? Watch this video with Jesse Schell talking about running a game development studio. He does a great job explaining how ants communicate in their colonies to make sure everything gets done to budget, in a timely manner, and correctly. Check out the following video at 3 minutes and 50 seconds in. “Ants don’t have meetings!”

Got problems? Over-communicate your needs!

How do you over-communicate with your team? Got any horror stories of what happens when you don’t over-communicate? Email me!


Author: David Neely

Professional Software Developer. Technology and Web Coordinator at the University of Hawaii's Manoa Career Center.