Posted by Robert Half on 14 September 2016
How can techies improve their communication skills?
Here are some points that may help with explaining new technical concepts to non-technical people.
Simplify your communication skills
If you’re struggling to pare back a presentation or explanation, think about how to make it almost comically simple. Once you have prepped that foundation, it will be easier to build on your delivery and look at it through a different lens.
Just remember that the person you are talking to, doesn't need to ‘get it’ first hand. There’s a good chance they don’t need (or want) to know how everything works. You can simplify by breaking down technical language so that the receiver has time to digest what you are explaining.
Work with your audience
Often people feel uncomfortable with topics they don’t fully understand. This can result in anxiety or defensiveness towards the other party. Be mindful and chose your tone of voice wisely, ensuring that you don’t come across as somewhat patronising.
Good communication skills hinge on making sure the person you’re talking to feels like a peer. Eye contact, patience and clear explanations can help alleviate any feelings of a power imbalance.
Respect your audience
Working in technical environments means your brain regularly functions in tech-specific ways with people who process thoughts similarly. It can be difficult shifting these modes of thinking to become more compatible with non-technical people. Knowing how and when to support someone can be a minefield.
It’s important to take a moment and address any preconceived notions you have of the person you’re about to speak with. This is because when your expectations of someone are lower than their true or perceived capability, it can entice you to judge and possibly cause offence.
By using reassuring phrases only after they express relief, pride or frustration, you are less likely to offend and the conversation will feel more genuine.
Sell it to them
More often than not, you will be going into a discussion with someone who knows nothing about the subject matter. This means you will need to find a way to break it down and put yourself in their position so the information appears relevant.
For example, if you’re explaining something to a co-worker who works in finance, he or she will probably want to know more about the financial implications. Or if you are in a job interview situation, you may end up having to sell yourself and your skills to non-technical people.
Manage your limitations
You know what pushes your buttons. It could be having to repeat the same thing 12 times or being talked about as though you’re not standing right in front of the receiver. Preparing yourself with ways to manage those emotions and scenarios is excellent practice for keeping your cool.
Ultimately, having good communication skills is a trait that is highly sought after, and with good reason. If you have well-developed soft skills, can communicate well and know how to explain new technical concepts, you are likely stand out from other candidates.