As an IT professional, one of the most important job skills you can possess may not necessarily be technical. Excuse me, what? How is that so? We’re IT people! If we’re masters of anything, it’s the technical bits in the trade!
Typical studies show that we spend 70-80% of our day communicating with others, and 40% of our day interacting with others’ writing (source, source). That’s a big chunk of time! If you think about it though, it makes quite a bit of sense. Have you ever got stuck reading a giant email chain in order to get caught up on an issue? Have you ever come across a co-worker or colleague who you’ve been listening to drone on and on and couldn’t help but think to yourself, “just get to the point already!”. I think we’ve all been there.
Effective communication can be vital to not just efficiency and productivity, but also success. Think about these situations for example:
- Have you ever asked a question and received an answer that didn’t fully address what you asked?
- Did you get too much information and were forced to sift through it all to find what you needed?
- Have you asked something of someone else only to have them do something completely different?
- Have you ever read a poorly written email? Received an invite or request that was missing important details?
- Sent an email but missed an attachment?
- Read an email that had improper tone? Maybe one with a little too much “emotion”?
When I sit back and think about it, I come across all of these things on a regular basis. Then, I find myself trying hard not to be “one of these people”, but I’m sure I’ve done it to others as well. Having recently completed an effective business writing course, the most prominent thing I learned was that the writer or communicator is responsible for the reader’s comprehension. Not the other way around.
If I present an idea to you, it is my job as the communicator to help YOU understand ME. You can’t read my mind, you don’t know my thoughts. The only thing you can do is keep reading, or listening. If I include information that’s not relevant to my point, not relevant to my audience, or don’t structure it in a way that lends to your comprehension then I’ve started to lose your attention and very likely my message. This is especially important in the IT field as we face many communication challenges:
- Technical acronyms and terms
- Non-technical folk mixed in with technical folk
- Introverts and extroverts
- Written, non-verbal, and verbal communication mediums
No wonder people get a blank look on their face when we try to explain how DNS works, or why data centre standards are important!
This is why I say one of the biggest assets an IT person can have is being able to effectively communicate (and sometimes translate!) the technical details to other co-workers and staff members. IT is arcane and obscure enough as it is. Helping others see it like we do will help us establish rapport with our non-technical colleagues, and enable understanding of how their IT can bring them business value.
I’ll leave you with the most relevant points I’ve learned, and a link to follow to read more: