Why is Communication So Difficult?

It has been said that during college people either lose themselves or they find themselves. During my academic journey, I learned wireless communication theories can be applied to several subject matters. It has also been said that those who work in telecommunication can be the worst at communication. I have learned through college that part of effective communication is learning not just how to say something, but what and when, as well. I believe that my 15 years as a wireless network engineer complemented my education experience in ways that helped me understand how to communicate by leading with questions to gain understanding into what people really need. Do we know why we should care, how we can help and what options are available?

Sharon Ernst of “We Know Words” informs us in her article “Why Your Writing’s Not Working” that we frequently fail to answer the “So what?” question so our audience understands why they should care. She begs the question of why we bother to write anything and simply answers the question with, “to communicate”. This article inspired me to ask myself how often we ask questions to see if we understand what is being said to us. I believe that social media is the perfect medium to observe human behavior in communication. The recent internet flurry about Google’s Code of Business Conduct has been an excellent subject to watch as people try to communicate what they think. After a few days, I waited for questions. I have asked a few job seekers what they knew about the leadership values for the company they were applying with. Typically the response has been that they did not know. I’ve asked them, “Why not?” The answer is usually that they did not know how to find it or what questions to ask to find it. How do we know what questions to ask?

Knowing what questions to ask seems to be frustrating to a lot of people. I was not always good at asking questions unless it was in my profession of comfort. However, through college, I began to wonder. Did I ask enough questions? Could I have done better? I believe that we can always do better and we can never ask enough questions to verify what we think we know so we can understand what we do not know. The questions I ask myself usually start with “What don’t I know?” I will brainstorm questions and type them out in a document regardless of how ridiculous they may seem. With that exercise, I’ve learned to prioritize the questions and type them into search engines. Those search results usually lead to more questions with key words that can be found in those articles or publications. For example, if I want to find Google’s Code of Business Conduct, I could do a search on “Google’s leadership values”. What do we do with that information?

The company values give us information about their goals and what they believe. The search results can provide deeper knowledge of what questions they may ask us. Do you believe what they believe? If not, then you may want to ask yourself if you really want to work there. If you do, then are you willing to understand and embrace what the company needs you to adopt in your business behavior as a member of their culture.

While experiencing my professional transformation as a network system engineer, we were taught that a system is a system. With telecommunication systems, we learn about transmit and receive signals, winks, handshakes, and payload validations with checksums as it flows through the OSI model from the physical layer to the application layer. If a system is a system, then doesn’t it make sense that communication is communication whether the system is a computer or whether it’s the human system? I believe that we have to understand why we offer value by understanding our customer needs. Understanding our customer needs is most effective when we are willing to ask questions and being willing to understand why this is important to them. Then, we should ask ourselves how we can help them accomplish their goals and what we can do to get there.

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