- You’ve got no one to blame but yourself.
- Just like a typical [man/woman].
- I can read you like a book.
- Why? Because I said so.
- Who’s sorry now?
- If I were you, I’d . . .
Notes from the Golden Orange
EppsNet Archive: Communication
Recruiters who write job descriptions with requirements like this:
- Great Communication – must be able to speak very clear
The first week’s lecture included advice from Edward Tufte on visualization and graphic design. I thought I’d already posted this a couple of years ago after attending a Tufte course, but after further review, I see that I haven’t, so here it is.
The success of a visualization is based on deep knowledge and care about the substance, and the quality, relevance, and integrity of the content.
Tufte: Five Principles in the Theory of Graphic Design
- Above all else show the data.
- Maximize the data-ink ratio, within reason.
- Erase non-data ink, within reason.
- Erase redundant data-ink.
- Revise and edit.
Does it take you 30 seconds or less to get your question to the eyes or ears of the person who might have the answer?
Osmotic communication means that information flows into the background hearing of members of the team, so that they pick up relevant information as though by osmosis. This is normally accomplished by seating them in the same room. Then, when one person asks a question, others in the room can either tune in or tune out, contributing to the discussion or continuing with their work. [...] When osmotic communication is in place, questions and answers flow naturally and with surprisingly little disturbance among the team.
- What actions you take, you believe in.
- What commitments you make, you keep.
- What resources you have, you use.
- What words you say, you believe to be true.
- What you create, you intend to be great.
Teams must intentionally create an environment where it is safe to express all ideas.
Looking over my notes from an Edward Tufte course . . .
- Details lead to credibility.
- Every paragraph, chart, etc., should lend credibility to your argument and give your audience a reason to believe.
- Great design disappears; it gives itself up to the content.
- There’s no “right way” to display data. Try a few different approaches.
- Tables are often better than graphics.
- Don’t get it original, get it right.
- Don’t underestimate your audience. Don’t pander or patronize.
As I’m writing this article, I’m trying to formulate ideas, understandings, and experiences into words. When you read this article, you try to understand what I’m saying within the context of your experiences. In the process of narrowing my bandwidth to words, and you trying to expand the bandwidth from words to your understanding, a lot is lost. No matter how well I write and you read. And, most of us are not superb writers and readers.
I know my son had a history test today, and that history is a make-or-break class for him. I want to ask him about the test but we’re having a delicious family meal at Olive Garden and I don’t want to break up the festive mood in the event the news turns out to be bad.
I decide to ease into it with some small talk . . .
“So, how was recess today?”
o_O (BLANK STARE)
I continue, “I know you had a history test today but rather than get right into that, I thought we could start with some small talk about recess.”
He says, “I haven’t had recess since 6th grade.”
“Oh. In that case, how was the history test?”
My wife is on the warpath this morning . . .
“Can you believe this?” she says to no one in particular. “I hate that printer. I’m throwing it away. It ran out of ink again! I’m trying to print something and now I have to go buy more ink!”
So I say, “You print a lot of documents. Do you get rid of your car when it runs out of gas?”
“Oh I can’t wait to throw away that printer,” she says, storming off . . .
What I re-learned in Crucial Conversations class is that you can have “better” conversations with people if you’re able to control your initial emotional reactions and apply some learnable communication skills.
And while it’s been my experience that these techniques really do work, I haven’t used them as much I could have because they also seem to take a lot of the zest out of being alive.
For example: Several years ago, we had an electrical problem at the house, where we weren’t getting power in any of the front rooms.
My wife was home when the electrician came out — I was at work — and he fixed the problem in five minutes.
When I got home, she was unhappy that he’d charged us 50 dollars for five minutes of work.
My first thought was, “That is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. What should we do? Save 50 bucks and sit in the dark for the rest of our lives? What do you care how long it took him? He fixed the problem.”
As it happens though, I had just finished reading the Mars/Venus book, in which I learned that while men like to solve problems, women prefer a little empathy, so what I actually said was, “Gee honey, that must have been very upsetting.”
Well, that absolutely floored her. And as she stood there gaping at me, I said, “I mean it. That sounds very upsetting.”
So I sidestepped a colossal argument but I also realized that I couldn’t do that on a regular basis because I’d wind up listening to a lot of nonsense, throwing myself on conversational grenades and keeping all of my best lines to myself.
One of our exercises in Crucial Conversations training was to “think of a person who is really frustrating to work with,” and to describe in writing a recent interaction with that person in terms of what was actually said, and what you were thinking or feeling but didn’t say.
My responses included the following:
- What I Actually Said
- This project presents some unique challenges.
- What I Didn’t Say
- I have a lot of experience managing IT projects, but not in running a day care center or a mental institution, which is what this project requires.
- What I Actually Said
- That’s not quite the way I would have phrased it.
- What I Didn’t Say
- Everyone else in these meetings seems to feel constrained by a sense of professionalism and decency that you appear not to possess.
One of my colleagues at our table of four claimed that based on those responses, she could identify the person I was writing about.
Since she and I and the person in question have never worked on anything together, I said she couldn’t, but much to my amazement, she did.
- Always pretend to know more than anybody else
- Police your employees by every procedural means
- Have your professionally-trained staff members do technicians’ work for long periods of time
- Erect the highest possible barrier between commercial decision-makers and your technical staff
- Don’t speak to employees on a personal level, except when announcing raises
- Be the exclusive spokesman for everything for which you are responsible
- Say yes to new ideas, but do nothing about them
- Call many meetings
- Put every new idea through channels
- Worry about the budget
- Cultivate the not-invented-here syndrome