Speak their language

Whenever you are speaking to a client, a designer, or an investor, first and foremost, you must understand their language. Not everyone gets a “tabs vs spaces” joke. In this post, I am going to provide some hints on how to improve your communication skills and speak their language.

Understand values. Every person has different values. For example, the linter rule you added to keep the codebase consistent is valuable to your peers but doesn’t provide much value for a designer. The best way to understand the other person’s value is by asking them. Next time you talk to designers ask them how you can help and you will learn a lot about their priorities. You will be surprised how much value you can bring to them.

Ask more questions. Ask follow-up questions to clarify the core problem your interlocutor wants to solve. For instance, when talking to a client, you can start the conversation by asking why they want to build a particular product. After carefully listening to the client, you might come up with another idea that solves the same problem and ask the client why they didn’t pick this alternative solution. The client could have assumed it was technically impossible. This is the moment for you to shine and provide huge value by proving it is technically possible and saving a lot of money for the client.

Communicate your values. It is as important to let someone know about your values as learning other people’s values. For example, when talking to a potential investor for your startup you should make clear what’s important for you so the investor can make an informed decision. Being open helps establish a strong relationship which benefits both parties.

Provide context. Correctly frame your thoughts by providing some context before jumping straight to specifics. Even better if you don’t need to go to specifics and can explain what you had in mind on a higher level. For example, someone outside your team wouldn’t know why you are building a particular feature.

Learn the slang. People always come up with slang or an abbreviation to communicate effectively with each other. So it is important to learn both the formal and informal languages of others. For example, it is common to use PMF abbreviation for “product-market fit” among product managers, or stat-sig for “statistically significant” among data scientists.

Explain to kids. Whenever you find yourself speaking about technical details think about how you would explain it to kids. You should consider some analogies because children love them.

Hope this helps you communicate effectively at your workplace. Let me know if you would like to share more ideas on how to improve communication skills.

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