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The language of non-engineers
AKA: Answer the question!
The following was submitted by a prominent radio engineer who asked that his name be withheld.
I recently posed a question to a collected group of broadcast engineers; a skilled and knowledgeable group of broadcast engineers. The question was a simple yes/no type asking about a personal preference. The answers I got simply floored me. I discovered that this was a microcosm of how we communicate and, by extension shape the way engineers are perceived. How we, as process-oriented, technical people make it difficult on ourselves to work within a goal-oriented world.
One of the biggest complaints I hear from broadcast engineers is that their non-engineering co-workers either don't understand, don't listen, don't consult them, or just don't communicate with the engineering staff at all. Hearing the answers I got to a very simple question it became evident why, as a group, we may have no choice but to expect that treatment. At least until we learn to communicate better. We often invite the bad treatment simply through the way we communicate.
The question I asked was similar to this: "Would you like it if I gave you a piece of candy?" I needed a simple yes/no answer reflecting a personal preference. Nothing else. Instead of a "Yes" or "No, thank you" here are the type of answers I got:
Again; I needed a simple yes/no answer reflecting a personal preference. I either had already answered the issues of cost, supply, distribution or would address the issues in turn. I simply wanted to know if everyone wanted candy.
Notice that in all these responses, not one really answered the question? No one told me what HE wanted...by answering a simple YES or NO. Those few answers that might have exhibited a preference required interpretation to derive the answer: You said "Candy Tastes Good"...so I guess that means "Yes, thank you."
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