Clear communication

My cat is a great communicator.

Today, just before noon, he meowed in front of my room. When I opened the door, he walked down the stairs till halfway, stopped, looked back at me, made eye contact, and meowed again.

When I started following him, he passed the living room, stopped, looked back at me, meowed again, and waited for me to catch up. He then led me to the kitchen next to his feeder, and made me feed him.

Many technical people forget this first rule of communication. Make sure your correspondent is following you. Make sure you connect with them strongly.


My cat, Pasha, first made sure he connected with me and then communicated with me in a deep/visceral manner. He did this even without needing to use words.
 

How do you achieve this? 

The first step is to take this as the objective. By dumping out one paragraph of content per minute to the other side, you don't achieve communication. You should stop, check the other side, confirm they are with you, before you carry on to the next step. This is called pacing. I was terrible at this when I first started teaching. I would have one hour of class prepared, only to dump it in 20 minutes over hapless students.

Another big part is planning. Communication is all about taking the audience from point A to point B. Keep the goal in mind. Keep the path short and direct. Pasha did not play with me, he did not let me pet him, he kept his short distance ahead of me. He didn't take me through unrelated rooms. These would have confused me about his intent, and lose/ignore him.

What if you need to take the audience from point A to point Z? Same thing. Divide and conquer. First take them from A to B, then from B to C, and so on. Make sure to stop, check the other side, confirm they are with you. This can be done via recapping the progress so far. Even better, make them do introspection and summarize what they got from the communication so far.



I have been writing a lot about clear communication (dropping some links below). So I had not expected that I would get schooled about communication by my cat. But Pasha has indeed become a great life coach for me. 

Some writing/communication posts from this blog:

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Foundational distributed systems papers

Graviton2 and Graviton3

Your attitude determines your success

Progress beats perfect

Cores that don't count

Learning about distributed systems: where to start?

Silent data corruptions at scale

Read papers, Not too much, Mostly foundational ones

Sundial: Fault-tolerant Clock Synchronization for Datacenters

What’s Really New with NewSQL?