This editorial was originally published on 8 Sep 2016. It is being republished today as Steve is on holiday.
I might know what you are thinking. You are thinking: what I really need is a beer, a vacation, or a raise. Now that might be true, but I think what we really need is better communication. I would guess that a majority of people reading this are highly technical, smart individuals. I would also guess there are a large number of us that don’t communicate very well with others.
One way in which we don’t communicate very well is in the “how” we express ourselves. Just look in the forum or at some of the comments on the technical articles at SQLServerCentral. Many smart, technical people come off sounding very arrogant, proud, or highbrow. In many cases what is written can be sound advice or a good answer to a question, but the tone can be off-putting and disrepectful. If there was a slight change in how things were stated, it could go a long way towards better communication.
It is almost like we have something to prove. We need everyone to know how smart we are, or at least how smart we think we are. I am not sure I buy into the idea of, “there are no dumb questions,” but we don’t have to shove it in the questioners' faces, either. Where did we lose our patience, our kindness, our empathy? Perhaps we never had any or were never modeled it by others.
So, what is the answer here? Perhaps we should look to the golden rule: “Do on to others as you would have them do on to you.” I can hear some of you saying, “I don’t mind being treated the way I treat others.” I think that is a lie. You may be doing to others what has been done to you in the past, but I don’t believe anyone should be treated poorly. Don’t get me wrong, I am no different. I have certainly been prideful or boastful or condescending in my communication, but it was wrong, and I regret it. So ,how can we endeavor to communicate better?
How we communicate is our choice. So, let us start by making a choice to communicate differently. An initial reaction can be harsh, but don’t react. Give yourself time to think it through, and choose your words carefully. In conversation, be slow to speak and don’t let your temper or emotions get the better of you. Try not to communicate out of pridefulness. When you are communicating in writing, read over what you have written before you press send or post. If you are not sure how your response might be coming across, then have someone you trust read it and give you their opinion. Care about how you are coming across, instead of just thinking people will deal with it. In the end, if we can do these things, I think our communication will improve. The benefit will be that, sooner or later you will find that when you treat people with respect and communicate yourself well, you will be treated likewise.
Share a time you really stuck your foot in your mouth and communicated yourself poorly.