Ovid (publius_ovidius) wrote,

The Four Types of Technical (Over)Communicators

I just stumbled across something I wrote a long time ago and, if you'll pardon the hubris, I think it's probably one of the single most important things I've written.

Communication is more than just saying words that are technically correct.

For technically minded people who tend to use extremely technical terms to people who may be less technically minded, I find that there are four reasons for this:

  1. They're oblivious.
  2. They're trying to bluster their way through something they don't understand.
  3. They're trying to be overly precise.
  4. They're trying to say something other than what they're saying.

For those who are oblivious, I feel bad for them. They often genuinely fail to realize that they're boring the other person to tears. They don't appreciate other's viewpoints and sometimes think the other person is "stupid" because they can't remember the difference between OpenBSD and FreeBSD. Barring an epiphany on their part (and possibly very supportive friends who will help let them know when they're doing this), there's not much which can be done for them. They fail to communicate because they don't know their audience. (If you're not technically minded, ask me to describe "traits" at some point. I can probably do it in a way you sort of understand even though it's such a new software practice that many programmers don't understand it.)

The blusterers are simply offensive. These are the people who simply won't admit to not knowing something. They often use bluster to impress others without realizing that, with a few exceptions, they fail miserably. They fail to communicate because they offend or annoy their audience. Blusterers are often very easy to spot.

Being overly precise was my great failing for a long time. I still have this problem and need to rein it in. Even if my target audience understands what I'm saying, I often find that by filling in too much detail, my audience either can't remember everything I said or they seize on a minor point which distracts from what I was actually trying to communicate. People with this problem fail to communicate because their audience can't remember the main point or get distracted from it. One does not sip from a fire hose.

For those who are trying to communicate something other than what they're saying, it's dangerous. Sometimes they're trying to intimidate those they are talking to. Sometimes it's a strategy to deliberately put off those who they are talking to. Sometimes they're just playing politics. Regardless of their reasons, they're dangerous. Those who say one thing and mean another, unless it's explicitly made clear that they're using a parable or something similar, are simply duplicitous. Once this tendency is recognized, they fail to communicate because they can't be trusted.

With all due respect to my technically-minded friends, sometimes we're a pain in the ass to be around.

Tags: writing
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