Art of Communication

More than all the endless drawing work, the engineering and re-engineering, applications filled, submissions made, reports written, assessments conducted, spreadsheets completed and electronic documents circulated, it is good, clear, frequent person-to-person communication that best supports a tree-sensitive development through its hazardous, and sometimes expensive, journey to successful realization.

Despite the quantity generated, and regardless of the quality of presentation, even the most vital documentation appears quite easily ignored. Sometimes it’s just misunderstood, and serious implications are under-appreciated. Or things get left out of the paper trail and, even though it’s now easier than it’s ever been to pass a torrent of information between us, the motivation to properly engage seems to have gone through the floor.

Maybe that’s because, now that we can ship a large quantity of info at the press of a key, we do so without proper consideration for the poor so-and-so on the other end of the shipment, who’s just going to look at what came in, feel truly oppressed, and head for the nearest other-thing-to-do. Or maybe it’s just a habit we’ve formed. When stuck for time, or unable to make a decision, or experiencing that gut-feeling telling us we’re under-informed, we default to passing stuff along the line. Or, if we’re so depressed we’re in a mood to self-harm we ask for more information to be sent…..

For me, there’s no substitute for discussion and face-to-face dialogue. I prefer to do this on site, but there’s always plenty of space for productive phone conversations, the back-and-forth of succinct e-mails and, yes, even for the Formal Meeting around a Shiny Table somewhere – as long as it’s focussed and short πŸ™‚

But it’s not the talking itself that makes for good communication. For certain, the words we choose are important, but other things are too. Patience is essential. It’s not a sign that everyone around us is stupid if they don’t immediately recognize the implications of our proposals. Thinking time has it’s place. It’s normal and healthy to have to reiterate, to have to re-phrase or to have to find alternative directions from which to approach an issue so that different parties, with differing perspectives, can understand.

Sunk as we are in our own specialisms, what makes perfect sense to us can be a lot less obvious to someone else. The things we think are clearly signalled in our explanations may be so obscure to others that they’re able to miss them entirely. If in doubt, talk again. Call a follow-up (brief and succinct) meeting. Check back, respectfully.

This is not a lecture. I’m in no position to preach – the subject has come to mind as a reflection on my own less-than-ideal experiences. I try extremely hard to ensure my documentation says what it means, I don’t use jargon if I can avoid it and I offer explanatory illustration as often as I can. I’d just like to use this opportunity to wave a bright flag for person-to-person communication, which is an art belonging in the humanist realm. It is also, when properly implemented, a way more powerful tool for enabling progress than all the Auto-CADing and document-compiling in the world.