Nicky Tests Software: Breaking Bad Communication Habits

Monday, September 30, 2013

Breaking Bad Communication Habits

Breaking Bad Communication Habits

I'm sorry. I couldn't help myself. I just had to use an awesome pun to start off this blog post :) My boyfriend and I literally laughed out loud when I read the title of this blog post out loud. And yes, I'm one of those people who are usually the first person to laugh at their own jokes.. no shame.. no shame.

I've become an avid fan of the show and I'm pretty gutted to see it end. But hey, I admire the fact they quit while they're ahead instead of milking it for all it's worth.

Anywho, let's get down to business. Lately, I've been thinking a lot about communication skills. I mean, I'm pretty sure a high proportion of people believe they have 'good' or 'solid' written and verbal communication skills. But how many people actually do?

In the work environment, as a Test Analyst, having solid communication skills is all the more important as you need to be good at not only interpreting information but also getting information across. I'd have to say that a measure of communication of a Test Analyst doesn't only come in the form of how clear their test cases are or how good they are at describing a defect in a Defect Management Tool but also in getting information across on the quality of the system.

Which leads me to my first point.

Sometimes words are not enough

You could have the most extensive vocabulary in the world. You could be a very eloquent speaker and create well-written documents. And still fail to get the message across. I find if there's a way to depict my message in a visual manner, it's usually worth a shot. It can really help drive the point home. I guess that also explains the appeal of whiteboard meetings where you talk to the whiteboard as a team, and draw random lines, shapes and words which would make no sense to anyone else who happened to stumbled across the whiteboard afterwards.

The Information is Unrelatable

From personal experience, I find it's easier to derive meaning from information when I can 'make it real'. When I can't 'make it real', I struggle. If I can't relate to the new piece of information of any way, I'm worried that it hasn't properly sunk in.

An example of this is the Cobb Douglas formula I learned in one of second year Economics classes. I flippin hated it. When we were taught it, the lecturer mainly used Greek letters instead of replacing them with actual numbers. On one hand, it took me a while to get to know Mr CD, on the other hand, my knowledge of the Greek Alphabet is probably better than most people.


Assuming that what you say and what the other person hears are the same thing

In the Grad Programme, I was told to never assume. They really drove this point home. It's funny to think how easy it is to do. I make a conscious effort to avoid making assumptions, and if I do, explicitly state them.

But then ask yourself, have you ever been in a situation where you (thought you) were clear about something and the other person (thought he/she) understood correctly what you wanted - but you two weren't on the same page all along?