How Technical Are You?

Whether it’s with friends, family, colleagues or random persons on the internet, we always use communication. We use it through the words we say and type, through the side eyes we give or even the impatient snapping of our fingers. There’s no doubt that communication leads our everyday lives; with the messages we want to convey and the relationships we have and would like to create. It’s easy then, to deduce how important communication can be from a technical point of view. There’s an ongoing stereotype that people associate with the technologically savvy which is that they find more pleasure (and have more success) in having a chat with their computers than they do with their fellow human beings. Whether this is true for you or not (we’re not judging), it certainly is not an accurate consensus to be made for an entire group and there’s nothing wrong in proving your critics dead wrong either. Communication, as simple as it may seem, is an incredibly important ability that we take for granted. Last Friday’s session with guest speaker Tito Hinds focused entirely on the process of technical communication, not to use solely in our informal social lives, but to use in formal,  stress inducing environments like the classroom and workplace.  Understanding communication and its effect on the people we are surrounded by brings us one step closer to true success.

To begin with, Tito Hinds made sure the session was very interactive- encouraging all CSSrs to participate in answering questions and even presenting themselves to the club to act out scenarios. Feeling rather victimised, every CSSr in the room had to stand and give one type of media used for communication. With over 30 responses given, here were just a few;

  1. The telephone
  2. Body Language
  3. Instant Messaging
  4. …Food. (because nothing shows more love than sharing food, perhaps?)
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A CSSr in fear of his fast approaching turn to speak to the class.

Once the ice in the room had finally broken, Hinds then outlined some fundamental aspects one should heed when having to communicate formally. The first important point is that one should give some kind of preparation before communication. This means you should define your ideas and understand the points you want to make beforehand. He outlined that establishing a communication plan can also help to avoid problems. Such a plan would include details like the time the person is available for a discussion. Hinds stressed that it was important to understand that people have responsibilities outside of school and work and trying to invade that space can create problems and hostility that would be geared towards you.

Presenter ??? speaking to CSS

Presenter Tito Hinds speaking to CSS.

Understanding when someone is available also carries onto the point that one should take time to learn about his or her audience. The term ‘audience’ does not have to mean a group of persons in an auditorium for which you’re giving a speech or performance. It all comes down to who it is you wish to have communication with; it can be one of your friends in an informal setting or your lecturer in her office. The point is to understand their temperament and personality. If you have to speak with an emotional person about a particular task he or she isn’t taking seriously, it is probably best to tailor your message in an easy-going fashion. Using only negative language in a loud tone to carry across your point, for example, will only seek to hurt the person and in response, discourage him or her from getting the work done. An equally important factor to consider as well is age. Using new-age slang with a person above the age of 60 is probably going to cause a problem in communication. Hinds also gave the advice that being a know-it-all leads nowhere for anyone. “Don’t think you know everything…understand everyone’s style – it may be annoying for you but in the great scheme of things, their method may be more efficient in one way.”

Ahkeem Harding trying hard to convince CSS why they should buy a Toyota car (he failed)

In an exercise on how to make convincing points, Akeem Harding (left) tried hard to persuade CSS that they should buy a car (he failed)

Likewise, to Hinds, having confidence makes your points so much more convincing. The idea isn’t to be a tyrant, forcing everyone to agree with you, but in having confidence in the words you say and the ideas you have, persons will at least consider your words based on the searing confidence you give off. On the other hand, tripping over your words, avoiding eye contact and saying “I don’t know though” after every point you’ve made (especially when you do in fact know!) makes you lose authenticity points. Hinds also added that setting the tone for communication is important. He outlined that within the first thirty seconds of communication, always say something encouraging. Perhaps the person is wearing a blue checkered top with red and white striped pants; “I love your outfit” can go a long way in how receptive that person will be to your message. We’re not advocating that you lie per se, but everyone has some positive aspect about their appearance or personality that you can point out to them ( but hey, if you can’t find that quality, or it really doesn’t exist, you’ve earned yourself a Dishonesty card ).

So far, the main points that were discussed all pertained to how you should be as the person who is relaying the message – the points in your message, your approach and your understanding of your audience. However, communication isn’t just about who gets to talk. You aren’t a teacher giving a lecture to your students for hours on end(unless you are a teacher, but you aren’t all the time!). Communication is an exchange – you give something and you take something back. You give your message, the person listens and gives you feedback. LIKEWISE! The person gives you his or her message, you listen and then you give feedback. It must be understood then, that listening is just as important as speaking. Hinds insisted that when listening to someone, it is very important to establish eye contact. Barbadian culture in itself, frowns upon this notion especially when speaking to older persons. However, this shows the speaker that you are totally engaged in what they have to say. That also brings us to the point of getting rid of distractions. As much as you’d love to check your phone after you’ve seen its light blink frantically at you, take control, flip the phone over, and listen.

Furthermore, a great technique Hinds advocated for use, was to confirm what the person has said to you. This is done simply by repeating the point the person just made. So if he or she says “Yesterday I went to the beach and I nearly drowned.” that’s your cue to say “You nearly drowned at the beach yesterday, for real?” and with that, the person knows for sure that you have been listening.

In terms of giving feedback, Hinds stated that there’s something called The Sandwich Approach. What this entails is saying something positive, giving the necessary critique then ending with something positive again. So you hate your group member’s part of the project where he explains how to make pancakes. Instead of saying “Big man, you eva mek pancakes? Dis ting you write here is trash.” Perhaps you should choose the better alternative, “Now the information you obtained from Wikipedia was really good. Clearly you’ve done your research. With the part about the batter though, I really do believe that you add the eggs without the shells. Still, everything else is accurate.” In the end, you should not insult someone’s work – you must be considerate about a person’s idea as everyone has something worth contributing.

Finally, Tito Hinds gave his closing points by offering other miscellaneous tips to successful communication. Firstly, you should always have integrity. To do this, just be yourself at all times. Do not act one way at one point and then act another way. Persons may see you as dishonest or even two-faced in observing your inconsistent behavior. Secondly, you should try at some point to get out of your comfort zone to communicate better with persons especially with those you don’t share any surface interests. Last but not least, always find opportunities to develop yourself. This includes having a personal library, reading different types of books and keeping your mind open to new concepts.

Even though the presentation had to inevitably come to an end, the theme of communication continued on. Vice President Shari took over the session with a number of team-building activities. The highlight of such an affair was when club members were divided into groups and given four sheets of paper. With these simple sheets, they were tasked with building infrastructures. The end result was beyond our imagination;

What a magnificent masterpiece

What a magnificent masterpiece

Team member explaining the intricate design of their structure.

Team member explaining the intricate design of their structure.

All’s well that end’s well in CSS and it didn’t hurt that one of the groups was able to win a prize for having the best made structure either.

Fellow CCSr receiving his gift for his team's exceptional skill in paper architecture.

Fellow CCSr receiving his gift for his team’s skill in paper architecture.

Through the jokes, laughter, and sheer fun experienced this session, there’s no doubt that the comradery of the society has extensively grown. Stay tuned for the next CSS session this coming Friday so you don’t have to miss out on practical information and a good time.

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