Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Random observations about Communication

So, this post is not really technical, but I'm posting it to the Gentoo planet anyway because it applies to the social part of Gentoo. I see a lot of people making the same mistakes that I once did, or saw people make while interacting socially within Gentoo. This post is not in response to someone in particular; more like in response to the "feeling" I get.

Communication Problems (technical): when communicating over inefficient media such as email or IRC, keep in mind that the other person has no way of knowing what you meant, or felt, when you said something. Due to this, it is easy to cause insult, and even easier to be misunderstood or misquoted. No one knows your mood when you type on the net.
Solution: Make ample usage of smileys; make it clear what you mean, in as few words as reasonable. When on the receiving end, give the other person the benefit of doubt. It's quite easy to misunderstand what someone said. When in doubt, re-read and re-interpret.

Communication Problems (social): I've personally found that the root cause of 110% of arguments that escalate is a severe and dire lack of proper and clear communication. People are just unable to express what they mean, what they want, and what they are thinking in clear, easy-to-understand terms. Part of the problem is that "clear, easy-to-understand terms" vary among people. The other part is that different people think in different ways, and English is usually not their native language.
Solution: To be able to communicate effectively with someone, you need to understand how they think first. This is obviously too much work to do with everyone you meet, but if you're going to be working with or around someone; take the time out to empathize with their world-view. If you want to convince someone of your opinion, put yourself in their shoes and see it through their eyes.

Communication Problems (length): This is one problem that seems to plague people a lot, and often they don't even know it. Writing 4 paragraphs when 1 would've sufficed is a bigger problem than just writing one cryptic word. A lot of analogies are coming to my mind right now to explain this, but I'm going to go with this: 'tl;dr'.
Solution: When you write something, keep in mind that time is a precious commodity, and by writing a long mail/response, you will waste their time if they choose to read it. And hence, most people will not read it. If you want them to read it; spend some of your time and make it easier to read. Make it short.

Communication Problems (rage): E-mails written and IRC conversations conducted in anger. You read an email, see someone make a commit, or just something they said on IRC; and you go into RAGE mode. It makes you furious. You don't understand how the guy can be so bloody stupid. Maybe it's the last frickin' straw. You flip off and start shouting. The other side may be oblivious to your distress; or worse, they flip off as well. When the dust settles, pandas and kittens make sad faces at your blood pressure and the decisions you made.
Solution I've been on both the rage-side and the rage-causing side, and I can tell you this: It doesn't help anyone. If you get angry at someone on the internet, stop. Stop and get off the computer. Come back later. If you cause someone to get angry, pause. Pause and figure out why. Think to yourself; maybe you're wrong, maybe they misunderstood you, maybe they had a bad day. But first off, calm the other guy down. Stop arguing, and take a walk. Come back later and try to reconcile your differences. Fact: 149% of arguments lead to burnout and heart disease.

Now, I don't expect people to keep all this in mind all the time. Hell, I'm writing this now, but I know I'll never be able to stick to this 100%. The point I'm trying to make is that You're Fallible. Everyone is. Just keep that in mind all the time, and just remember the above things vaguely (you can bookmark it for reference!). I'm sure we can all do better than we're doing right now.


Anonymous said...


(But seriously, you do make sense.)

rohitj said...

@nareshov : lol
@bheekling : agreed

disi said...

This is the first time,I heard about tl;dr :) *learned something today

Anyway, I usually leave people alone if they behave bad or are angry about me. In Gentoo I can't remember anyone being annoying or using bad language, except of in the german irc chat :P (Happened once, so it doesn't really count and I usually don't hang around there anyway)

Anonymous said...

agreed! thanks for posting this

Anonymous said...

I think your post is dumb and annoying. And I don't like your attitude either. @#!$!!

Christopher said...

@anonymous: ha ha

Tongue-fu Lady said...

love it! true, i can give many of our conversations as examples :P

Nandeep Mali said...

Somebody once told me:

"Smileys are for weak people. >:)"

* shudder *