5 Steps To Communicate With People You Have Never Met
The evolution of the digital world has transformed the way of doing business in a very small period of time and this huge impact it is due has touched one of the most sensitive areas in human behavior: Communication. How has it evolved our industry?
From banking to manufacturing, it now seems there’s no excuse for not being available or sharing information. Today, we have so many resources to enable contact, from a simple phone call to a video sent from the job site to the truss manufacturer and copied to the design department using the same phone (or device) we carry in our pocket! The devices we carry in our pocket these days can do just about anything. So now we have the means to communicate clear, loud, precisely and immediately. And because of the deep impact in business, this will evolve over the coming years in ways that now we just can imagine as Science Fiction.
What can be missed in this equation? The same old variable: ANY resource is ONLY as good as the use we make of it (we can make the hammer a tool or a weapon). Sound familiar? Fact is, communication is essential to the success of ANY relationship. Without proper communication, businesses fail. Marriages end. Siblings become rivals. The list is endless.
As remote designers, we work in a new and dynamic environment of self-management. Time management skills are critical. This is an environment where your boss is not over your shoulder. Neither are your colleagues at the next desk beside you. This sobering fact compels us to revisit the basic principles of communication, not only to be polite, but also to use the means as growing tools not only for the business but for yourself. Related to my personal experience in the remote design field, I can point out these guidelines:
- Communicate your idea clear of the gray area: As we do not even see our interlocutors, you need to be sure your idea or question has reached the target and the best way is using tools available to include images or pictures related (remember some response easier to an image than a long an explicative paragraph or call). And also asking for feedback to be sure you has been understood. Did I explain myself or do you have a question?
- Don’t hesitate to ask: As a designer, as soon you get a set of plans to work on, you become a link in a chain of value in which time, effort, components, transportation, etc. It’s money we can’t afford to lose, so if you have any question do it as far as you have the doubt. Sometimes you’ll feel dumb, but most of time you can get surprised. And be sure to reflect back the answer to the question you asked, to ensure proper understanding.
- Go to the right source: Does your company have a clear path of information that has to be followed? Do you know exactly to whom address questions, answers, etc.? Are you in direct contact with the customer or this information must go to someone in the organization first? This is something to be defined it by management regarding the case. At Gould Design, Inc. we have a team member responsible for each account. We even have Project Managers for the larger designs. In some cases, the information must go the account representative responsible, because these individuals can answer or make decisions based on the account’s preferences, without bothering the customer. Also this allows them to direct the designers the right way, as you have a technical problems with software them use the tech support of the supplier or getting in touch with the proper person in the company to solves this kind of issues.
- Quality communications: “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world” – Ludwig Wittgenstein. Language is a gift we must enrich every day, not only for business purposes, but also for our brain health (stronger synapses are made by the use of language or learning a new one this can prevent neurological diseases as Alzheimer or Parkinson’s). The solution? We obtain instruments to communicate properly our ideas, but also be sure of using the proper kind of language regarding the situation. There’ll be situations for a casual use of the language where even a bad word or two will bring order, but there are other cases which an educated and structured selection of your words is a must. Also remember to avoid or administrate the use of commonplaces or made up phrases or slang (hit and run, stepping up, etc.) as bad words this can weaken your ideas and your words can suffer fatigue as we abuse of them.
- Use the proper means: As there is a set of tools to communicate it’s indispensable to select the one regarding the situation and the interlocutor. Maybe for internal communications a messenger service as Skype, WhatsApp, the BB pin, text messages or social media can be appropriate, but keep in mind these serve as informal instruments as a conversation. Its use must also be rational because the receiver can answer through the phone and we don’t want to be intrusive with our colleagues or customers. For formal communications the proper tool will be the e-mail, in that way the receiver will examine it in the right moment to them and we can include visual information or documents related, keeping track of what we have sent and received. All these resources have made the phone call to gain a different value, more personal, more serious. In this “impersonal” communications environment, a phone call remains a resource to deal with real people. Something type you can missed because your direct relations goes through machines. Sometimes text can be misinterpreted, where as a tone of voice will be much clearer. So hearing a voice now and then it’s something to be grateful for.
Maybe in a few years we will laugh about this kind of article because working remotely will be a common occurrence. In the future, people won’t dream about using the corner office but the proper corner at their houses (sometimes I watch offices sitcoms and looks like they are talking from a time long far away). However, as this is becoming more and more of a reality, we must sharpen our communications skills more than ever. The distance factor forces us to be even more sensitive at our interlocutors needs. Now hearing becomes more important than ever, not only to provide the best experience to our clients, but also our colleagues and ourselves.
Probably you are into the remote working world in some fashion (as a provider or a customer). Is there a home in the world that doesn’t have something stamped “Made in China? The guidelines above come from my own experience working as a remote truss designer, for a team of guys I have never met. What are your experiences? How we can improve? What do you think we can add to this never-ending question?
Javier Dominguez – Design Professional
Gould Design, Inc.