Sanna Kramsi - Blog A peek into my life

Good communication

September 12, 2020 | Life

I've seen a lot of posts and communication about, well, communication. It's a subject I've spent a lot of time thinking about lately.

Everyone is different and sometimes that might mean clashing personalities. Sometimes I've seen the "solution" of changing the way someone communicates, to make them "less annoying", for example, when they are considered too loud. Suppressing people's personalities is not a sign of good communication, to me, it is quite the opposite. As long as people aren't mean to each other or otherwise rude, letting people be themselves usually improves communication. Not having to change who you are allows you to bring up your ideas with more confidence because you don't have to be constantly afraid of forgetting to be the fake you or think if this idea is something that the fake you would have. It is a different thing if someone is constantly rude or non-civil, those issues should be addressed. But this kind of behavior is more about manners than personality. Having, for example, a bubblier personality doesn't mean a lack of manners. It is important that people have manners and don't always lash at people when they themselves are having a bad day.

Being empathetic goes a long way. When you know someone, it's easier to notice if something is wrong. They might be annoyed about something or just sad. Depending on your relationship with the person, just asking if everything is ok, might be enough to improve their mood. Sometimes we get so lost inside of our own heads that we forget to ask for support from the people around us. If you can listen to someone's problem, you might save their day or even their whole week. Forcing people to hide all their feelings has a negative effect on communication as well. Trying to hide your feelings is both exhausting and very difficult and rarely succeeds.

I'm not saying that you shouldn't sometimes restrict yourself a little. If you are hanging around a person, who you know to be very sensitive, I might not hurl my worst jokes at them because I know that would easily make them uncomfortable. But should I permanently stop having fun around them? Of course not, not even the sensitive person wants that. I think every one of us usually pays some attention to our surroundings and modifies our behavior accordingly. This kind of behavior should be our own choice because that way we aren't changing who we are, just reacting to our surroundings by ourselves. Forcing someone to talk in a certain way or to become a whole another person is not the way to go. The better solution would be to train people to be more tolerant of different personalities and people. The more diverse personalities we have, the better the communication will in the end be because of the different perspectives we get by having more people communicating. We just have to make sure that we are tolerant of people who have a different personality than we do.

Even the shyest person might take part in the communication, but their way will probably differ from the person who is super outgoing. If we just give everyone the space they need, they will take part in the communication in their own way. Don't force anyone to communicate in the way you want, find the way to communicate with different people. Someone might be comfortable talking, but someone else might not be. Maybe someone will communicate a lot by writing. If you have a "writer", don't force them to always talk verbally, give them the possibility to also communicate in writing.

Verbal vs written communication

I often see people thinking that verbal communication is better communication than written communication. In a work environment, you usually need to be able to do both, but I don't think verbal communication is automatically any better. It might be easier to start a conversation with someone on the fly and quickly get a better understanding of what the other is trying to say. The other person might have trouble describing the issue in writing but verbally they can describe it better. But often after such a conversation, there is no trace of it anywhere unless someone writes things down. Written conversation, if done in a project chatroom or project-related task, like a Jira issue, first of all, allows more people to take part in the conversation, and second of all the written conversation will be available for others to read through later.

It is often harder to see the mood of the writer from written text, which can lead to wrong interpretations about the person's intentions. But this can be tackled by remembering that we have a tendency to perceive written text more negatively. When you keep that in mind while reading someone's brief response text you first thought as rude, you might start to think that actually the person might be in the middle of something and just quickly tried to answer your message, or maybe they are in a meeting. They might even be using voice commands while they are on the move. We shouldn't automatically assume that people using brief responses are rude or uninterested.

I've also seen the reaction that text without smilies is automatically considered negative. You don't always have to include smileys or other emoticons just to try to make sure the other person doesn't see it as negative communication. Because if you don't normally use the emoticons and suddenly your message is filled with smiley faces, it can easily come off as sarcastic. I think the reader should also have some responsibility in written communication. Remember that you perceive written communication usually more negatively than what it actually is meant to be. If after that thought you are still bothered by the message, ask about it. Don't let the issue grow in your head before you know what the other person actually meant by the message.

With written communication, it is easy to miss the visible cues about the other person because you cannot see the other person. But those can also be missed while communicating verbally. Depending on your relationship with the other person, you might be able to detect their mood just as easily from the written text than you could by looking at the person.

Some matters can be easier to type than to say. And when you write your responses, you have more time to cool down in an annoying situation and think things through. And when writing, you can read your message a few times before sending it to try to ensure the message is also received the way you mean it.

Value your own personality

If your laughter is loud, let it be. If you try to constantly laugh quietly, it will affect how you communicate with people. Should you laugh loudly at the library? Maybe try to avoid that. But is it always a bad thing if you laugh loudly? Definitely not. Besides, genuine laughter is infectious. If you like to tell stupid jokes, please don't stop. I at least love stupid jokes! But if you know you are around someone who hates morbid humor, maybe don't throw your best morbid jokes at them, at least not all the time, save those jokes for people who appreciate them, I can guarantee you have people around you who enjoy those kinds of jokes. If you find coffee break conversations unpleasant for whatever reason, you don't need to take part in them (at least hopefully not!), you can just hang around. And if that is tiring to you, there is no need to force yourself to constantly be around people, do something that you like on your break.

Don't let anyone tell you what kind of person you should be. There will always be someone who, for whatever reason, might not like you. It might be your laughter or sense of humor, but it might just as well be the color of your shirt or something equally ridiculous. You cannot always please everyone but if you are truly yourself, I can guarantee there are more people who like you for who you are than those who want to find something wrong with you.