At Work: Communications (8) (工作)
first published on rolia.net, 2010-10-9
People ask me why I write in English. One reason is that I often can't find good Chinese translation for some words. The word "communication" is one of them. It means a lot more than just 沟通 or 交流.
Have you ever heard of the word "troll"? A troll is someone who spends most of their time picking fights on the internet. They distort other people's views in order to provoke them. The more emotional their opponents become, the happier they become. The longer the debate lasts, the more satisfied they are.
What do you do with trolls? Ignore them, of course. And this is also "communication": knowing when not to communicate. I've seen a few trolls on Rolia. Whenever I determine someone is a troll, I shut up on him.
Fanatics and lunatics are other types of people we should ignore. For example, people on the "Current Affairs" forum here at Rolia. Like the trolls, you can never drive any sense into these people. If you say that the Nobel Peace prize is a joke, they'd shot back at you saying that China is a joke.
Besides these extremes, many normal people should also be on our do-not-bother list. These people are just not on the same wavelength as we're. Years ago, I had a bridge partner much yonger than me. As an experienced player and one who read many bridge books, I tried to fix some of his wrong ideas. To my frustration, after hours and hours of debate, I couldn't even change him one bit.
Whenever you feel someone is taking your words in a strange way, chances are good that he's not on the same wavelength as you. And you should leave him alone.
To decide not to communicate is communication. To decide to grossly under communicate is also communication.
I've worked with many handymen over the years. Most of them share one trait: no matter what you ask of them, they tell you not to worry, with a big friendly smile. No problem, they'd say. It'd be a piece of cake, they'd assure you.
However, a lot of times, I was disappointed. They either couldn't do it at all or they'd do a bad job. Sometimes they didn't even understand what I wanted.
Despite my experience, if next handyman tells me something is a piece of cake, I'd still feel good. I'd still be confident. I'd still be worry free.
I use this handyman trick on my bosses. Whatever they ask of me, I'd tell them not to worry. Everything will be fine. There's no point in showing them your doubts. Or infecting them with your worries. Most of the time, I come out with flying colors. Once in a while, I stumble. But it doesn't tarnish my image. Every competent boss knows that sh*t happens.
A lot of times, our goal is actually not to 沟通。My mom used to say, 见什么样的人，说什么样的话。 Under the same situation, a good communicator could say entirely different things depending on who's on the other side. And more importantly, the purpose of the other side.
A friend of mine works for a software consulting company. His company did a project for a client and in the end, a guy from the client has to review their code. The reviewer objects to their use of inheritance. You should use helpers, the guy said.
There're many ways to handle this objection. It all depends on why the guy objects.
Maybe he's just trying to show off his knowledge. If so, you should be able to pacify him with a lot of praise of his technical might. Get him to talk about how he got to be so smart. The more he talks, the easier it is for him to agree with any final solution from you.
Maybe he's arrogant and looks down upon you. If so, you should stand up to him. Show him that you understand the difference between inheritence and helpers. Justify your decision to him. The more knowledge and judgement you display, the more respect he'll have for you and the easier he'll be to deal with.
Maybe he's just picking a fight. If so, no matter what you say, it's not going to change his mind. It has become political. Make a decision whether you want to take the fight. If you take it, be firm on your feet and be careful about what you say. Don't leave him with ammunition. On the other hand, listen to him closely for stupid words you can use against him later. Very often the fight has to be resolved by the people higher up.
Communications means a lot more than 沟通. To be an effective communicator, we need to be able to read people. And to have the flexibility to say different things to different people. Or to not say anything at all.