The art of communication

Vasiliki Kotzampasidou Soft Skills
2 min read
illustration of characters trying to communicate

It is well known that developers spend a lot of time in front of a computer working on all that cool stuff (which no one understands except for them). But what happens when they have to explain what these mean to their colleague or a non-developer?

Some developers will say it is easy if the person they are talking to works in IT. However, that stays as an assumption. What if you do not properly communicate effectively with that colleague and get lost in code? What if you try to explain your work progress on a project to a client who is not familiar with software and coding?

Too many interaction problems for such a simple solution: the art of communication.

How can you start working on your communication skills?

The most important thing about communication is being an active listener. That means to listen and respond. Know when and how to ask the right questions. In that way, you make sure that both you and the person you talk to have reached a level of mutual understanding and that everything is clear. Allow other people to finish their thoughts before adding yours. If you want to ask a question, add a thought, or express your disagreement, it is better to wait for the other person to finish talking. Interrupting the conversation can lead to misunderstandings (plus, it is quite rude). Finally, use open-body language and gestures. Nod your head and make eye contact. Body language shows that you are engaged in the conversation and your colleagues feel that they are heard.

Now, we should see things from a different perspective. Let’s say you are the speaker. One way to overcome miscommunication issues is through empathy.

So, how do you get better at empathy?

Empathy is a combination of being a great listener and establishing strong relationships with the people around you. Learning about other people’s backgrounds, their motivations, and their passions helps you see the bigger picture of what makes that person who they are. Understanding where a person is coming from helps you shift your communication style accordingly.

For example, if someone is new to your company, you know that you will need to explain their work routine more slowly and break down their complex tasks into simpler ones, since they are currently in a transitioning and training period. Another instance is if you are talking to someone whose role does not require a technical background, it could be important to use easy-to-understand technical terms or to explain those concepts as you go so that they can be on the same page as you.

Using empathy in communication does not mean you should be judgmental. It means the opposite. Helping each other get to a common understanding by using language that is understandable to both parties is the key in successful communication. When developers communicate effectively together, great things happen.

What are the other soft skills needed in a developer? Check out the Soft Skills series here.